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AVON BOOKSHOP 
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RANDOM HOUSE 

presents 



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THE 



GREAT 
GOLDWYN 



ALVA 



BY 



JOHNSTON 



9P L- 



■*«. 



SECOND PRINTING 



COPYRIGHT, I937, 
BY RANDOM HOUSE, INC., NEW YORK 

PRINTED IN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 



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THE 
GREAT GOLDWYN 

By ALVA JOHNSTON 
Starring 

SAMUEL GOLDWYN 

and a huge supporting cast 
of Hollywood Stars 



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Written and Directed by: 

ALVA JOHNSTON 

Produced by: 

BENNETT A. CERF 

ROBERT K. HAAS 

DONALD S. KLOPFER 

Assistant Director 

in Charge of Editorial Matters: 

SAXE COMMINS 

Assistant Director 

in Charge of Production: 

HERBERT R. CAHN 

Settings: 
(Typography, Binding & Jacket) 

ANDOR BRAUN & VALENTI ANGELO 

COPYRIGHT, 1937, 
BY RANDOM HOUSE, INC., NEW YORK 

TECHNICAL PRODUCTION: 

American Book Bindery-Stratford Press, Inc. 
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THE 
GREAT GOLDWYN 



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THE ELECTION OF WOODROW WILSON CHANGED 
Samuel Goldwyn from a glove salesman to a movie 
magnate. The Wilson Administration lowered the tariff 
on skins. Sam thought that would take the profit out of 
gloves. He looked around for some other line and picked 
the movies. 

That was in 191 3. Sam was only thirty, but he had 
been a glove salesman for fifteen years. He had sold 
gloves to Yankee general-store proprietors. He had a 
sales enthusiasm bordering on frenzy. Sam argues a man 
into a coma or into a disorder resembling "bends." His 
victim signs anything. 

Sam talked a large part of Hollywood into existence. 

* 13 « 



-<->- THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

The great Paramount studio is a monument to his nui- 
sance value. The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer plant is largely 
the petrified conversation of Goldwyn. His voice breaks 
men down like a rubber hose. He has tortured vast quan- 
tities of talent and capital into Hollywood. 

Sam is out of the two giant organizations which he 
played a large part in forming. He is out because the 
ruling principle of his life is— Goldwyn is boss. Sam is 
the absolute monarch. Paramount made the mistake of 
not accepting this principle, and it lost Goldwyn. Metro- 
Goldwyn-Mayer made the identical error, and it lost 
Sam too. 

Sam then organized his third company, in which he is 
as absolute as Ivan the Terrible. This is Samuel Goldwyn, 
Inc., Ltd. He owns ioo per cent of it. He quit the Hays 
organization because he would not let Will Hays or any- 
one else encroach on his sovereignty. He withdrew from 
the Central Casting Agency because he wanted to pick 
his own actors, even for the smallest parts. He was the 
first producer to establish his own wardrobe; he wanted 
to control the last detail of his costuming. From the 
beginning of his career, Sam was regarded as the greatest 
salesman in the business. Later he was called the smartest 
publicity man and general showman. In the last ten or 
twelve years he has won increasing fame as an artist. He 

-> 14 <- 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

has a long history of producing pictures of high quality, 
like Stella Dallas, The Dark Angel, Arronjosmith, These 
Three, and Dodsworth. Sam has had more fights than 
any other man in Hollywood. Because he is a rebel and 
a trail blazer in the use of the English language, he is the 
central figure of a great comic legend. 

But most of those who hate him or laugh at him will 
say, "I admire Sam." The routine is to ridicule Goldwyn 
for a while and to denounce him for a while, and then to 
credit him with "an instinctive love of beauty" and "com- 
plete" or "almost complete artistic integrity." The ablest 
people in Hollywood, generally speaking, admire Gold- 
wyn most. His closest friend was the late Irving Thal- 
berg. It is almost a fad in Hollywood today to rave about 
Goldwyn's taste. He commands respect because of a 
seeming contempt for money when he is in a mood to 
lavish it in the pursuit of what he regards as perfection. 
He suffers and agonizes to get "the Goldwyn touch"; 
those who work for him suffer and agonize with him. 

His greatest fame, however, is based on Goldwyn say- 
ings and Goldwyn jokes. Sam's words built much of 
Hollywood, but he mispronounces them and uses them 
in the wrong places. Nouns, verbs and adjectives are 
Goldwyn's tools; he is more celebrated for broken tools 
than for what he accomplished with them. He is un- 

* *5 + 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

rivaled today, as an unconscious humorist, or wit, 
through no fault of his own. Sam does not wholly enjoy 
his pre-eminence, although at times he has deliberately 
promoted it. Henry Ford collected Ford jokes and 
printed them as advertising matter; on that precedent 
Goldwyn's publicity department formerly collected and 
invented Goldwyn gags and circulated them. The trend 
had already been so well established, however, that any 
dazzling flash of ignorance or any startling disarrange- 
ment of words would ultimately be attributed to Sam 
without any help from his press representatives. Today 
it takes an expert to pick the genuine Goldwyn lines 
from the spurious. More people are counterfeiting on 
Goldwyn than on Uncle Sam. 

Some of the true Goldwyn lines are a credit to him. 
He can often put things more forcefully in his own 
medium of expression than they could possibly be said in 
the king's English. An ordinary man, on deciding to quit 
the Hays organization, might have turned to his fellow 
producers and said, "Gentlemen, I prefer to stand aloof," 
or "Gentlemen, I have decided to go my own way." 
Sam said, "Gentlemen, include me out." It would be im- 
possible to make a more pointed remark than Goldwyn's, 
"A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on." 
One day, after slicing five or six golf balls, he made a 

->■ 16 + 



-<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN <->■ 

beautiful drive; he turned to the caddy and asked, 
"What did I do right?" The true Goldwyn line is sel- 
dom a boner or a howler. It is usually a plain statement 
with a slight twist; as, for example, his exclamation at 
the beach one lovely Sunday morning, "What a wonder- 
ful day to spend Sunday!" 

Sam commands legitimate attention by thinking 
strange thoughts rather than uttering strange words. 
The absolute-monarch psychology causes him to feel 
that his problems are world problems. When he medi- 
tates, he thinks that everyone should, by some telepathic 
process, be listening in. He awakened an assistant at 
midnight once and started a telephone conversation by 
saying, "The woman must die in the end." "What 
woman?" the man asked. Goldwyn had been thinking 
out the plot of a picture; the employee was expected to 
know by thought transference all that had gone before. 
Sam was as annoyed as if the man had gone to sleep in a 
conference. He expects employees to have a sixth sense 
and to render supernatural service. Again and again, 
Sam starts conversations without telling the other man 
what the subject is. 

One day he stopped every man he met on the Gold- 
wyn lot, asking: "Do you think it is raining tonight?" 

Several said, "No." 

* 17 + 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

One man said, "Of course not. There's not a cloud in 
the sky." 

Sam withered him with a look. "I mean in New York," 
he said. "Our picture opens tonight in New York." 

One of the leading directors in Hollywood called on 
Goldwyn one day at Goldwyn's request. As the man 
entered the office, Sam pounded his fist on his desk and 
said: "I won't pay you a cent more." 

"Why, you haven't paid me anything yet," said the 
director. 

"I don't mean that," said Sam. "I mean I know what 
you have been getting and I won't pay you a cent more." 

The director still looked blank. With a sigh, Goldwyn 
went back and laid the foundation for the conversation 
by explaining that he wanted the director to make a pic- 
ture for him; the interview then started all over again. 
Much of the time Sam's mind is so concentrated on pic- 
tures that he is practically in a trance. One day he stopped 
over in Chicago, went to the Hotel Blackstone, reg- 
istered, went directly to his room, seized the telephone 
and said, "Get my office." He expected the operator, 
without even knowing his name, to connect him with 
his studio in Hollywood. The operator took Goldwyn 
by surprise by asking the number. He didn't know it. 

Sam has a prodigious memory, but he doesn't know 

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<-> THE GREAT G O L D W Y N -<-> 

his telephone number. He doesn't know his home ad- 
dress. He will not charge his mind with points of this 
kind. Once when he was driving with Harpo Marx, Sam 
wanted to stop and telephone home. "What's my num- 
ber?" he asked. Harpo gave it to him. A moment later, 
Sam asked again. Harpo repeated it. "Write it down for 
me, Harpo," said Sam. He wouldn't ask his memory to 
retain a detail of that kind from the car to a telephone. 
He never forgets a point relating to his primary interest, 
the pictures. Conversations of years ago on this subject 
are stored away in his mind like phonograph records, 
but he won't burden his memory with things that others 
can remember for him. Sam is the king, and the other 
people are his faithful vassals. No one is too big for the 
office of king's remembrancer. Sam Harris, the famous 
Broadway producer, got the appointment years ago. 
Harris, Arthur Hopkins, Goldwyn and others had been 
playing golf. In the dressing room, Harris put on a dis- 
tinguished suit of underwear. 

"Where did you get it?" asked Goldwyn. Harris told 
him. "I'm going to get some," said Goldwyn. "Call me 
up tomorrow morning and remind me of it." 

Anyone who happens to be with Sam automatically 
becomes the chancellor of the king's exchequer. Sam 
never carries money. He is slender and an elegant 

■> 19 <- 



■<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <->■ 

dresser. Bills make a bulge in the coat pocket. Small 
change makes a bulge in the vest pocket. Sam is too 
proud of his figure and his tailor to allow his lines to be 
distorted by currency in any form. 

Most of Sam's word trouble is inattention. His mind 
is usually 90 or 100 per cent occupied with future pic- 
tures. He won't use his brain for non-essentials like other 
men's names, and he has an undiscriminating ear for 
sounds. Only one syllable out of three in an ordinary 
man's name will register correctly in Sam's conscious- 
ness; a world celebrity might score two out of three. In 
the very act of telling Louis Bromfield how important 
the name of Bromfield was, Sam called him Bloomfield. 
When hiring Arthur Hornblow, Jr., Sam called him 
Hornbloom. Hornblow wrote the name on a paper; 
Sam waved it aside, saying, "Show me later." Ben Ca- 
hane, a member of the Goldwyn organization, was al- 
ways "Mr. Cocoon." When Charlie Chaplin returned 
from Paris several years ago, Sam inquired after the 
health of Anatole France by asking, "How are the Affairs 
of Anatole?" Shirley Temple is Anne Shirley to Gold- 
wyn; King Vidor is Henry King. 

Sam pays fabulous salaries to Big Names, but he re- 
serves the right to mispronounce them. He worships 
writers. Many of the best of them have worked for him. 

-»» 2X5 + 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<"> 

It has been said that if Shakespeare were alive today, 
Goldwyn would have him. It is an interesting notion; 
some of the bad plays, like Cymbeline, Troilus and Cres- 
sida, and Fericles, might have been tightened up into 
great dramas if the playwright had had a producer over 
him to tell him, "It stinks, Wagspeare. It's lousy. It's 
terrible. It's ghastly. You're ruining me, Wagstaff." 

Sam's passionate concentration on his primary pur- 
poses leaves only a few fibers of his brain for secondary 
matters. That causes his scrambled phonetics; it also gives 
him a genius for making unexpected comments. A story 
conference on Barbary Coast was being held at Gold- 
wyn's home one fine morning. A fierce wrangle had de- 
veloped, with floor pacing and table pounding. William 
Wellman, the director, happened to pass a window. He 
stopped and looked out. 

"That's the most beautiful sight I ever saw," he said. 
The others quit fighting and came over to the window. 
A mother quail and a flock of baby quail were trotting 
across the lawn. 

"Think of us wrangling here when we could be look- 
ing at things like that," said one of the conferees. 

"It's the prettiest thing I ever saw," said another. It 
was now Sam's turn to say something. 

"They don't belong here," said Sam. He didn't say it 

■> 2.1 -<- 



-*-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

in bad humor. He didn't resent the quail's trespassing. It 
was merely his turn to speak and he contributed a point 
of information. 

The first impression of Goldwyn that you get in 
Hollywood is that he spends all his time hewing away at 
the dictionaries and grammars. The second is that he is 
always in a frenzy; he is said to be the only man who can 
run amuck sitting down. Both impressions are exagger- 
ated. Many persons who know Sam pretty well have 
never heard him miscoin a phrase; others have never 
found him anything but reasonable. He never forgets 
that Sam is king, but he is able to remember that some- 
thing is due to princes of the blood, which is his rating 
of people of talent. He is not in a hurry; no producer 
gives more time to writers and directors; he can be not 
only patient but long-suffering. He has accepted kidding 
by Eddie Cantor and other illustrious wags with the tol- 
erance of a monarch toward his licensed jesters. He will 
do anything for the cause, which is to turn out good pic- 
tures. His great rages and furies are generally intended 
as contributions to the cause. 

He is second to none in his respect for money, but he 
will throw it away like a madman to get the effect he 
wants in a picture. When he didn't like his first version 
of Nana, he scrapped it completely, throwing away with- 

> 12. -«- 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<-> 

out a murmur the $411,000 he had spent on it; his own 
money, too, not stockholders'. He will not let down the 
name of Goldwyn, if he can help it. His failures are not 
the result of any lack of striving. 

Goldwyn's usual method is to pay an enormous price 
for the screen rights— $165,000 for Dead End; $160,000 
for Dodsivorth—of a stage hit or popular novel, and then 
to hire the best writers and directors to make it. His 
ability as a producer is sometimes discounted, on the 
theory that he buys success. This is not the whole story, 
however. He has turned out distinguished pictures over 
a long period. Hundreds have collaborated with him, but 
Sam has been able to place his unmistakable mark on all 
his work. The greatest tribute to him is that the phrase 
"the Goldwyn touch" is part of the vocabulary of 
Hollywood. "The Goldwyn touch" is not brilliance or 
sensationalism. It is something that manifests itself grad- 
ually in a picture; the characters are consistent; the work- 
manship is honest; there are no tricks and short cuts; the 
intelligence of the audience is never insulted. Goldwyn 
ran away from his home in Poland at the age of eleven 
and arrived here alone in the steerage at the age of thir- 
teen. His education in English was a year at night school. 
With this background, the most impressive fact about 
him is his development of taste and artistic conscience; 

-> 2.3 + 



■<-)* THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

today it is a compliment to nearly any picture to say that 
it looks like a Goldwyn production. 

Goldwyn is sometimes called a Napoleon— a title of 
no distinction in Hollywood. It is like calling a man 
"Mister." Sam has, however, a belief in his star, or a be- 
lief that the universe is rigged in his favor. He can't un- 
derstand losing at games of chance or in business con- 
troversies; it is a violation of the laws of nature as he 
understands them, and it makes him the hardest kind of 
a loser. He stated his philosophy when he had an argu- 
ment with another company over the services of William 
Anthony McGuire, who wrote The Great Ziegfeld. Sam 
wanted McGuire badly. So did the other producer. Both 
sides claimed to have him under contract. The only solu- 
tion was arbitration. 

"All right," said Sam. "Pm a fair man. Pll submit any- 
thing to arbitration. But remember, no matter what is 
decided, McGuire goes to work for me." 

When Goldwyn loses at games, there are stormy 
scenes. It is not the loss of money that hurts; it's the 
sacrilege. Such things can't happen legitimately in the 
Goldwyn universe; foul play is indicated. There some- 
times is foul play. Goldwyn-baiting is a recognized pas- 
time. Some of his dearest friends cheat him because they 
like to hear him rave. Backgammon, as Sam plays it with 

> 24 ^ 



*<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <r>* 

some members of his circle, is as honest as wrestling. 
Chico Marx said, "Sam is the only man in the world who 
can throw a seven with one die." Charles MacArthur 
once slapped Sam's hand and said, "That's cheating." 
"What's that between us?" said Sam. 

Sam once kicked a lot of stones out of the way and 
made a path smooth as a billiard table in front of his 
golf ball, which was lying near the green. Then he 
tapped it, almost making the hole. His opponent, Harpo 
Marx, kicked a stone out of the way of his own bail. 

"You can't do that!" shouted Sam. 

"But you just did it," said Harpo. 

"But didn't you hear my caddy say I shouldn't?" de- 
manded Sam. 

Sam loses pretty regularly at bridge, so fights are fre- 
quent. There was an uproar at the bridge table on Joseph 
Schenck's yacht one day. Schenck walked to the other 
end of the yacht, where the wives of the players were 
sitting, and said, "They're having a fight." 

"Sam and who?" inquired Mrs. Goldwyn. 

Sam scolded his partner, Constance Bennett, once for 
overbidding her hand. 

"How did I know you had nothing?" she asked. 

"Didn't you hear me keeping still?" asked Sam. 

At another bridge party on the Schenck yacht, Sam 

■> ^5 + 



"<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<~> 

went down eight hundred points on one play. He in- 
sisted that it should be only seven hundred. In the argu- 
ment that followed, Sam offered to bet Edwin Loeb, a 
Hollywood lawyer, one hundred dollars that it should 
be seven hundred points. 

"I won't bet," said Loeb. "It would be betting on a 
sure thing." 

Sam scoffed and jeered, and finally forced the bet. 
The book was consulted; Sam was wrong. He paid the 
one hundred dollars under protest. 

"You were betting on a sure thing," he said. 

Later in the same game the same point came up. Sam 
insisted the play set him back only seven hundred. He 
badgered Loeb into another one-hundred-dollar bet; 
lost; paid under protest; claimed he was the victim of a 
sure thing. 

Next to his royal and imperial cast of mind, Sam's 
chief trait is his love of battle. Both traits were necessary 
to enable him, with his unpromising start in life, to carve 
his career. He is one of the pioneers of the modern mo- 
tion picture, and he is still giving lessons in the art to the 
new generation. If he were a less impressive figure, the 
Goldwyn gag would be unknown. A smaller man can 
utter misbegotten bons mots by the hundreds without 
being noticed. It is useless today for anybody else to be 

-> 2.6 <- 



■<->- THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<~> 

witty unawares. Sam has cornered the world supply of 
unconscious humor. Everything from Irish bulls to Jap- 
anese-schoolboy comedy is credited to him. 

Before Sam arrived in Hollywood, the official uncon- 
scious humorists were two brothers who made short 
comic pictures. The brothers became obscure; Sam be- 
came famous. The old anecdotes deserted the brothers 
and attached themselves to Goldwyn. "Our comedies are 
not to be laughed at" is one of the lines that abandoned 
the original author and joined the Goldwyn legend. 
Another was a telegram sent by one of the brothers after 
their studio had burned: "If there is nothing left to 
watch, fire the watchman." When a director asked the 
brothers to send him to the Rockies to shoot cliffs and 
forests, the reply was, "A rock's a rock and a tree's a 
tree; shoot it in Griffith Park." The brothers were 
robbed of these and other gags; Goldwyn became the re- 
luctant receiver of the stolen goods. 

"I can answer you in two words, 'Im possible,' " is al- 
most the cornerstone of the Goldwyn legend, but Sam 
did not say it. It was printed late in 1925 in a humorous 
magazine and credited to an anonymous Potash or Perl- 
mutter. An executive in the Chaplin studio pointed it 
out to Charlie Chaplin, saying, "It sounds like Sam Gold- 
wyn." Chaplin said, "We'll pin it on Sam," and he re- 

> 2? + 



-f> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

peated it until it became a world-famous Goldwynism. 
"I read part of it all the way through," had a similar 
origin. A producer said that to a team of writers. They 
laughed. The producer said, "Boys, I've always been 
good to you. Don't tell it on me. I'm sensitive. Tell it on 
Sam." It would have pinned itself on Sam in the course 
of time, anyway. The sun-dial story, which is having a 
vogue now, runs: 

"What's that?" asks Sam. 

"A sun-dial." 

"What's it for?" asks Sam. 

"It tells time by the sun." 

"My, my, what won't they do next?" 

This was printed years ago as the saying of a gardener. 
It gravitated slowly to California and finally attached it- 
self to Goldwyn. Probably the most actively circulated 
Goldwyn story today is that someone said, "What beau- 
tiful hands your wife has," and that Sam replied, "Yes, 
I'm going to have a bust made of them." So many per- 
sons swear they overheard this that Sam must have said 
it over the radio; but many authorities say it has not the 
genuine Goldwyn stamp. There are reliable witnesses 
who are sure they heard Sam say, "It rolls off my back 
like a duck," when Sam's publicity man showed him a 
bunch of newspaper reviews damning one of his pictures. 

* 2.8 «- 



-<-> THE GREAT G O L D W Y N -<-> 

Charles A lac Arthur, a Goldwyn expert, challenged its 
authenticity. 

A kind of Goldwyn scholarship has grown up; there 
are specialists who can detect fake Goldwynisms as an 
archaeologist can spot a phony Greek vase. The duck's- 
back line was alleged to lack the Goldwyn rhythm. Later 
it came to light that it had been invented at the Goldwyn 
studio restaurant. Members of the staff had amused them- 
selves at lunch every day for a week by trying to say 
things as Sam might have said them. They produced 
scores of damaged maxims, malformed proverbs and 
mangled metaphors. The duck's-back line was consid- 
ered the only one to have the master touch, but it was 
not good enough to fool experts. 

One of the standard Goldwyn lines was plagiarized 

from George M. Cohan. "Never let that in this office 

again," shouted Cohan; then, feeling a little ridiculous 
and turning the joke against himself, he added, "unless 
we need him." The conscious humor is omitted from the 
line as transplanted to Goldwyn, who is supposed to 

have said, "Never let that on this lot again unless we 

need him." Sam did act on this principle in the case of 
Ben Hecht. He issued a statement to the effect that he 
would never employ him again and that no other studio 
would. Hecht had not only offended Goldwyn but had 

■> 2.9 <- 



■<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

deprived him of revenge. After the trouble, Hecht had 
got to the newspapers first with a statement to the effect 
that the Hollywood producers were high-minded art 
lovers, while the writers were squalid racketeers, and so 
on. Hecht had expounded Goldwyn's case so convinc- 
ingly that the producer had nothing left to add. 

Sam's reply was a boycott. But he soon decided that 
he needed Hecht and his writing partner, MacArthur. 
He not only swallowed his indignation but he signed a 
contract which stipulated that he was not allowed to 
speak to them. For three weeks Goldwyn observed this 
clause. Then he violated it by telephoning to Mac- 
Arthur on the pretext that Mrs. Goldwyn desired to 
know where to address a letter to MacArthur's wife, 
Helen Hayes. After some other disarming inquiries, Sam 
asked how the writers were getting on with their script. 
MacArthur broke down and said, "All right." 

"That's great. That's wonderful," said Sam. He then 
sent his regards to the "racketeer," as he called Hecht, 
and the feud was over. 

Goldwyn has had a long succession of able press agents 
from Harry Reichenbach to his present publicity chief, 
Jock Lawrence. Nearly all the Alumni of the Goldwyn 
press department are distinguished people. Under Sam 
they learned how to work publicity miracles. They 

■> 30 <- 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<-> 

boast of the terrific punishment they took under Gold- 
wyn. They speak of Sam as they speak of operations. 
Goldwyn is like the English schoolmaster, Busby, who 
scourged his pupils into illustriousness. Sam gets more 
space in the papers than any man in Hollywood, but he 
regards himself as the victim of a conspiracy of silence. 
No one has heard good modern malediction unless he has 
heard Sam reproach a press agent for not performing 
enough miracles. For weeks after a conference with Sam, 
the publicity man is picking broken epigrams out of his 
skin. 

Goldwyn's attitude toward publicity is logical. Pic- 
tures are everything to him. Pictures are man's only 
legitimate interest; pictures are Goldwyn Pictures. When 
people think of anything else, they're getting off the 
subject; the mission of his press department is to keep 
their attention from wandering. The Puritans had a 
functionary who went around tapping the heads of peo- 
ple they caught not listening to the sermon; Sam's pub- 
licity men are expected to crack down on anyone they 
catch not thinking of Goldwyn. When Sam finds a news- 
paper full of wars, floods and crimes, he is furious with 
his publicity department for letting digressions and irrele- 
vances leak in. The Goldwyn press agent does not ex- 
pect praise in proportion to the amount of Goldwyn 

> 3 1 + 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN ■<->■ 

stuff in the newspapers; he expects blame according to 
the percentage of non-Goldwyn stuff that gets in. 

There have been different opinions as to the publicity 
value of Goldwyn gags. One school holds that any pub- 
licity is publicity, and any fame is fame. Acting on this 
principle, some of Sam's propagandists have raided vau- 
deville, radio and old joke books to plagiarize hot ones 
and hang them on their employer. The other school 
holds that "the Goldwyn touch" means intelligence, 
taste, class; and that it blurs the impression to represent 
Sam personally as the king of unconscious low comedy. 
After one of his trips to England, Goldwyn was inclined 
to take the latter view. Sam is an important social num- 
ber in England and on the Continent. On one trip he 
found distinguished foreigners lionizing him to a degree 
that worried him. On his return, he ordered a change of 
policy in the publicity department. "Over there," he said, 
"they kept watching my mouth all the time, expecting 
something funny to pop out." 

They were disappointed. Sam goes sometimes for days 
without saying anything memorable. He usually has to 
be pretty excited in order to coin anything that will live. 
He does have good days, however. Here are a few 
Goldwyn lines that are vouched for by good authorities: 



-<-> THE GREAT G O L D W Y N ■<-> 

"The trouble with this business is the dearth of bad 
pictures." 

"We can get all the Indians we need at the reservoir." 
"Our new executive was born in an orpheum asylum." 
"My horse was in the lead, coming down the home- 
stretch, when the caddy had to fall off." 

"Excuse me, I am going out for some tea and trum- 
pets." 

"I have been laid up with intentional flu." 
"He treats me like the dirt under my feet." 
"That's the way with these directors, they're always 
biting the hand that lays the golden tgg. 11 

"You're always taking the bull between the teeth." 
"For this part I want a lady, a lady; somebody that's 
couth." 

"I would be sticking my head in a moose." 
"I want to make a picture about the Russian Secret 
Police-the G. O. P." 

"I had a monumental idea this morning, but I didn't 
like it." 

He embarrassed a lady writer once by saying "co- 
habit" when he meant "co-operate." 

"Will you give me your word of honor that you will 
work for me when you finish your present picture?" 

> 33 + 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <-> 

Sam asked a writer. The writer said he couldn't. "If you 
can't give me your word of honor, will you give me your 
promise?" demanded Sam. 

"It's too caustic," said a director, when asked his opin- 
ion of a script. 

"To hell with the cost," replied Sam. "If it's a good 
picture, we'll make it." 



* 34 «■ 



• >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> a <<<<<<<<<<<<<<< < 




THE FIRST LAW OF GOLDWYN'S BEING IS THAT 
Goldwyn is boss. He quickly gets out of anything 
that he can't boss. At the age of twelve, he got out of his 
family. 

Sam was born in Warsaw in 1882 and went to work 
as an office boy when he was eleven. A year later he ran 
away to England. In order to be his own boss, he worked 
at the age of twelve as a blacksmith's helper. For a while 
he lived with relatives at Manchester. They tried to exer- 
cise authority over him, and at thirteen he crossed the 
Atlantic in the steerage. He preferred to operate in a 
hemisphere where he didn't have any relatives. 

Sam went to work as a glovemaker in a factory at 

•> 35 + 



■<-> THE GREAT G O L D W Y N <->- 

Gloversville, New York. A year in night school was his 
only education in this country, but he succeeded in mak- 
ing himself a master of rhetoric. He uses words wrongly, 
but with magic power. The map of Hollywood has been 
transformed by Sam's gnarled eloquence. 

Sam is a born aristocrat. By the time he was fifteen 
he was moving in the higher circles of the town. When 
he was seen on the street, he was either alone or in the 
company of some Gloversville celebrity. His most inti- 
mate friend was Abe Lehr, the heir-apparent of a glove 
king. Their friendship lasted, off and on, for forty years. 
When Sam became the Great Goldwyn of the films, 
Lehr was invaluable because he had opinions of his own 
and was not afraid to cross Sam. For example, when Yes, 
Yes had been tentatively selected as the title of one of 
Eddie Cantor's pictures, Lehr opposed it. 

"What's the matter with that title?" demanded 
Goldwyn. 

"I don't like it," said Lehr. 

"Give me one reason why Yes, Yes is not a good title," 
said Sam. 

"It's too negative," said Abe. 

"And they claim I say funny things," said Sam. Abe 
had his way, however, and the title was changed. 

The first business association between Sam and Abe 

> 36 + 



>>>>>>>> > # < <<<<<<< < 

SAMUEL GOLDWYN 

entertains for New York's 
Mayor Walker during Jimmy's 
visit to Hollywood several years 
ago. Douglas Fairbanks is seated 
in the foreground. The girl at the 
left is Lupe Velez, and next to 
her are Dolores Del Rio, Louella 
Parsons, and Marion Davies. 
Charlie Chaplin is next to Mr. 
Goldwyn. Two down from 
Jimmy Walker is Ernst Lubitsch. 

>>>>>>>> >ft< <<<<<<< < 



-*->• THE GREAT GOLDWYN ^~> 

occurred when they were working at the same bench in 
Abe's father's glove factory. Sam was industrious and 
Abe was lazy. They formed an arrangement under which 
Sam worked an hour more than the regular day and Abe 
worked an hour less than the regular day. In return for 
this, the proprietor's son, through his pull, caused the 
foreman to furnish Sam with the best skins. You can cut 
gloves out of good skins much faster than you can cut 
gloves out of bad skins. Sam was paid on a piecework 
basis. He made so much money that Lehr, Sr., investi- 
gated. He discovered the plot and fired both Abe and 
Sam. He relented later. "I'll take you back," he said, 
"but you can't work in partnership any more." 

Abe Lehr learned, at Gloversville, a lesson that was 
invaluable to him in Hollywood— the lesson that it is a 
fatal error to do what Sam says and a fatal error not to 
do what he says. Sam took $120 from his pocket one 
night, kept twenty dollars for himself and then handed 
$100 to Abe, saying, "No matter what I say, don't give 
me this back till tomorrow." Sam quickly lost the twenty 
dollars at faro and then demanded another twenty dol- 
lars. Abe refused. Then Abe learned for the first time 
something of the true genius of his friend— his cyclonic 
emotional energy, his power to play on human weak- 
nesses, his execrations, his wild heartbroken cries. The 

* 37 «- 



■<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <~> 

unnerved Abe surrendered twenty dollars after twenty 
dollars, until it was all gone. Then Sam, in a white heat, 
denounced Abe's breach of trust, lack of manhood, per- 
fidy, treachery and insubordination. It was all good 
training for Abe in his later career as Sam's chief lieu- 
tenant in Hollywood. 

At fifteen, Sam went on the road, selling gloves in small 
New England towns. The opportunity came to him by 
default. No other salesman wanted to tour the grave- 
yard circuit and battle with the Yankee general-store 
proprietors. Sam had, at the age of ten, experienced a 
sudden feeling that he was a great man; others felt the 
same way about Sam when he made a success of his sales 
campaign among the Puritans. By the time he was 
eighteen, he was considered one of the great glove sales- 
men in the world. He then took two months off and 
went to Europe, meeting his mother at Karlsbad. Every 
year after that, Sam went abroad between sales trips. He 
developed his instinct for acquainting himself with im- 
portant people. He educated himself by relentless in- 
quisitiveness and by rare skill in searching other people's 
minds. In later life, Goldwyn never did become a Holly- 
wood provincial; he is today as well informed on Europe 
as any man in the film capital. The young glove sales- 
man had made his trips to Europe for pleasure, but they 

■> 38 + 



<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -f> 

helped him later in understanding the foreign film market. 
Sam was so successful in selling pictures abroad that he 
was able, nearly fifteen years ago, to exclaim, "Gentle- 
men, Fve invented a new slogan— 'Goldwyn pictures 
griddle the earth.' " 

Sam's entrance into the films was an accident. In 191 o 
he married Blanche Lasky, who divorced him in 191 5. 
She was a sister of Jesse Lasky, then a leading producer 
of vaudeville acts. In 191 2, Lasky toyed with the idea of 
making films. He listened to Arthur S. Friend, a young 
New York lawyer, who had a prophetic sense of the 
future of pictures. Friend wanted Lasky to produce long 
films that unfolded romantic stories from the beginning 
to the end, even if they occupied the screen for an hour. 
Lasky was the man to do it, according to Friend, because 
Lasky knew vaudeville; a man who understood the mind 
of the vaudeville audience would understand the mind 
of the future film audience. The project was presented 
to Lasky at the wrong time, however. Lasky had just lost 
$100,000 in a new venture, the Folies-Bergere theater- 
restaurant in New York. It made him conservative. He 
wanted to stick to his own field— vaudeville. Friend then 
talked to Goldwyn, who was likewise cold. Sam had 
plans for starting a glove business of his own. 

> 39 «- 



<fr> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

A year later Sam was ready to listen to Friend. The 
Democrats were in power; Sam thought that was bad for 
the glove business. He had also been impressed by a 
visit to a Herald Square movie house where Broncho 
Billy, a two-reel Western, was being shown. The place 
was packing them in; fresh stacks of dimes were har- 
vested hourly. Broncho Billy inspired Goldwyn at first 
with the ambition to become a theater owner. He priced 
some theaters and found them out of reach. It seemed 
cheaper to make pictures than to exhibit them. Sam 
finally did adopt Friend's idea, and went mad about it. 
He nearly drove Lasky mad by his incessant repetition 
of the same arguments; incessancy being one of Sam's 
leading characteristics. He waylaid bankers and Broad- 
way producers. When he talked of screen epics and 
twenty-five-cent admission charges, Goldwyn was 
thought to be suffering from hallucinations. The films 
were then in evil repute. The industry seemed to be a 
parasite on the white-slave traffic, the average screen mas- 
terpiece being a technical educational— expose, it was 
called— in the use of knockout drops and poisoned 
needles. Also, the flickering of the films caused blinding 
headaches and a permanent squint, according to medical 
men. Goldwyn made his first dent in the wall of prej- 
udice against the movies in October, 191 3. On Columbus 

> 40 + 



<->- THE GREAT G O L D W Y N -<->" 

Day he telephoned a friend to meet him at the Hoffman 
House. 

"Fve found a backer," said Sam. "He wants us to meet 
him with a prospectus. What's a prospectus?" 

Friend drew up one on Hoffman House stationery, 
but the deal fell through. Sam continued to argue cease- 
lessly, day and night, with his brother-in-law. Lasky 
finally agreed to give his name, which was a big one in 
the amusement world, to the movie venture; but it was 
stipulated in writing that Lasky should not be bothered 
further on the subject. Friend, Lasky and Mr. and Mrs. 
Goldwyn contributed a total of $26,500, the entire capi- 
tal on which the enterprise started. The company was 
called the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Picture Company, 
Friend took an active interest, but he had a law practice 
which kept him busy. Goldwyn was the only full-time 
worker. He had most of the labor and none of the glory; 
Sam had at that time a self-effacing streak which he 
conquered later. 

Goldwyn's first move was characteristic; he tried to 
hire the greatest man in the business, D. W. Griffith. 
This was two years before The Birth of a Nation, but 
Griffith had already made the four-reel Judith of Bethulia, 
a landmark in the film history, and had already invented 
the close-up, fade-out, dissolve and practically all the 

->• 41 + 



•<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -f-> 

camera technique in use today. "We want you with us," 
said Sam, explaining how his company planned to make 
one magnificent hVe-reeler every month, based on some 
famous play or novel. 

Griffith regarded Sam as an irresponsible young mega- 
lomaniac. He said: "Show me $250,000 in the bank and 
we'll talk about it." 

The job went to Cecil B. de Mille at $100 a week. De 
Mille was, at that time, an unhappy young playwright 
who was on the verge of going to Mexico to take part 
in the civil war. He started to make the first picture, The 
Squaw Man, at Flagstaff, Arizona, in order to be near 
the Indians, but moved on to Hollywood in order to be 
near people who knew how to grind a camera. 

The original $26,500 did not pay the cost of produc- 
tion. Dustin Farnum, the hero of The Squaw Man, sensed 
failure and demanded $5000 cash, instead of a stock in- 
terest which would have been worth millions. Sam 
raised additional money by masterful salesmanship. He 
sold veteran film men all over the country the exhibition 
rights of The Squaw Man and eleven other unborn epics. 
He collected in advance. 

"We're ruined," exclaimed Jesse Lasky at the first 
private showing of The Squaw Man. The actors ap- 
peared cut off at the waist, their legs walking in the air 

> 4* <■ 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

several feet above their heads. In a London drawing- 
room scene, the floor rose and the ceiling descended, 
crushing a mob of aristocrats like grapes in a wine press. 
Swarms of actors rose like quail and whizzed off the 
screen. Mountains twitched nervously and flitted away. 
The same actor appeared in two or three places at once, 
boiled around for a while and then pulled himself to- 
gether. 

The trouble was, as it appeared later, that the com- 
pany had lacked funds to buy its own equipment. The 
scenes had been shot by photographers hired by the day. 
One man had a Lumiere camera, another had a Pathe 
and a third an Edison. Each camera used a different type 
of film. The perforations at the side of each strip of cel- 
luloid were spaced differently. The result was that at 
the first exhibition of the picture, the perforations, or 
sprocket holes, on the films did not fit the sprocket wheel 
of the projection machine. The sprocket might catch in 
one hole and miss the next three or four. Instead of mov- 
ing uniformly, the film received a yank at irregular in- 
tervals, and between yanks it wriggled and twisted 
through the machine. 

Goldwyn, Lasky and others rushed over to Philadel- 
phia and laid the wreckage before Sig Lubin, who had 
a large film laboratory. The old-timer was enormously 

* 43 + 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

amused at the pathetic effort of the Broadway amateurs 
to break into his business. He had read some of Gold- 
wyn's advertising literature which promised that the new 
company would revolutionize the industry. Lubin shook 
his head. 

"Gentlemen, this is very grave," he said. After enjoy- 
ing their terror for a while, he added, "But maybe it can 
be fixed." 

"How long will it take?" asked Sam. 

Lubin gazed jovially from one scared face to another. 
"I'll have it for you tomorrow," he said. 

All that was necessary was to paste accurately spaced 
sprocket holes on the sides of the films. The Squaw Man 
was a tremendous hit. It did revolutionize the industry. 

The Lasky company's second picture was Brewster's 
Millions. Its first private showing was another tragedy 
to Goldwyn and Lasky. Brewster's Millions was a wild 
farce. It unreeled to dead silence. The amateur magnates 
had forgotten that they were alone in the theater, and 
that it was necessary to have an audience to have gales of 
laughter. They were again sure they were ruined. "The 
films are no place for comedy," said Goldwyn. On the 
following morning Brewster's Millions was shown to a 
large audience of exhibitors. Goldwyn was too nervous 
to sit through it. He walked round and round the block, 

> 44 + 



•*-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN ^~> 

finally entering the theater about three minutes before 
the show was over. He was stunned to hear sounds of 
merriment. Adolph Zukor, head of Famous Players, con- 
gratulated his rivals. 

Later Lasky said to Sam: "Zukor and all the other big 
fellows in the pictures smoke big cigars. Maybe we bet- 
ter." 

Each bought a cigar and tried it. Lasky liked it and 
has smoked ever since. Sam got sick and never smoked 
another. He doesn't even smoke cigarettes, unless a duch- 
ess or countess presses one on him, and then he holds it 
like a fountain pen. 

Lasky became active in the affairs of the company. 
This contradicted the old axiom that Goldwyn is boss. 
Terrific battles followed. After one combat Friend drove 
Sam around Central Park to cool him off. Central Park 
wasn't big enough for Sam's next rage. Friend drove him 
far down on Long Island. 

"Why do you always fight?" asked Friend. 

Goldwyn admitted that it came natural, but he shared 
the credit with Theodore Roosevelt. Sam had started 
reading the newspapers during the Big Stick days. He 
devoured T. R.'s fighting speeches. 

"Theodore Roosevelt taught me that a man has to 
fight," said Sam. 

* 45 «■ 



■*-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->• 

"Yes, but you fight even when people agree with 
you," said Friend. 

"Yes," said Goldwyn, "but Roosevelt teaches that the 
only things worth having are what you fight for." 

There were further big rows in the Lasky company. 
Sam's associates became desperate. A meeting of De 
Mille, Lasky and Friend— three big, easy-going men- 
was held to oust Sam. Friend had the deciding vote. 

"Fm willing," he said, "to vote Sam out, if you will 
promise to stick to it, but I won't vote him out today and 
then vote him back in tomorrow. I know he'll break 
your hearts and you'll vote him right back." 

They voted Sam out. He was notified the following 
morning. Before night he had broken the hearts of Lasky 
and De Mille and was reinstated. 

Both the Lasky company and Zukor's Famous Players 
were enormously successful. Zukor had the stars, but the 
Lasky company, largely because of De Mille, was the 
smartest picture maker. By bidding against each other for 
stars, they caused salaries to soar. Zukor, who was first 
in the field, had a property which, on paper, appeared 
twice as valuable as the Lasky company, but he was so 
eager to end competition that he offered a merger on a 
50-50 basis. Before the legal agreement was complete, 
however, Zukor was as eager to get out of the merger 

•> 46 <- 



■«->- THE GREAT GOLDWYN -f> 

as he had been to get into it. He had seen Sam in action. 
Once was enough. Zukor had ordered a contract drawn 
to pay Jack Pickford $500 a week; Sam howled and 
ordered the contract canceled. Zukor retired to his coun- 
try estate, brooded for two days and handed in an ulti- 
matum—either Sam must go or the merger must be can- 
celed. Sam got out of the company, but he sold his stock 
for more than $900,000. Within less than three years 
after entering the pictures, he was approximately a mil- 
lionaire. 

Sam sold out late in 19 16. He started immediately to 
organize a new company. He asked Edgar and Arch Sel- 
wyn, young Broadway producers, to join him. One of 
the assets of the Selwyns was their control of a library 
of plays some of which could be adapted to the movies. 
Edgar Selwyn was interested, but nervous, having heard 
of Sam's rows in the other company. 

He went to Zukor and said: "Do you know any reason 
why I shouldn't go into business with Sam?" 

Zukor studied for a while. 

"As far as his honesty and integrity are concerned, 
there is none." Zukor studied again for a few moments 
and added, "But if you do, you'll be a most unhappy 
boy." 

"Why?" asked Selwyn. 

-> 47 <- 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

Zukor studied again. "Sam," he said finally, "is like a 
Jersey cow that gives the finest milk, but before you can 
take the bucket away, he has kicked it over." 

The Selwyns notified Sam that they had decided not 
to go into business with him. But you can't do that to 
Sam. The Selwyns heard nothing for days except Sam's 
incantations. They held out until rigor mortis was about 
to set in, and then signed. 

Sam's real name was Goldfish. The "Gold" was taken 
from Goldfish and the "wyn" from Selwyn, and they 
were combined to form the name of Goldwyn. The cor- 
poration was called Goldwyn Pictures Corporation. 
Sam's original Polish name had been slightly different, 
but on his arrival at Ellis Island the immigration officials 
had translated it as Goldfish. Sam saw nothing wrong 
with the name at that time. During his years as a glove 
cutter and glove salesman, the name caused him no mor- 
tification. When Sam stepped out into the amusement 
world, however, it was different. The name of Goldfish 
was made to order for Broadway wits. Sam could not 
have provoked more merriment if he wore a pigtail or a 
Lord Fauntleroy suit. On being introduced to Goldfish, 
you had to say something good or forfeit your reputation 
as a quick thinker. Sam arrived late one night at Zieg- 
feld's Midnight Frolic and was seated in the rear of the 

* 48 + 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<~> 

house behind a glass curtain which had been placed there 
to cut off a draft. Sam protested at being seated behind 
the glass. Gene Buck, Ziegfeld's associate, said, "Behind 
glass is the place for a Goldfish." Irvin S. Cobb's Speaking 
of Operations came out at about this time in the Saturday 
Evening Post with the goldfish simile which every edu- 
cated American repeated several times a day. Sam finally 
went to his lawyer about it. The lawyer took it up with 
the New York Supreme Court and had Goldfish legally 
changed to Goldwyn. The Selwyns were furious at hav- 
ing half of their name pilfered, but they could do noth- 
ing about it. Thousands of corporations have been named 
after men, but Sam is one of the few men to be named 
after corporations. 

There was a perverted sense of justice in Sam's change 
of name. For three years he had worked night and day 
in the other company to build up the name of Lasky. As 
soon as he had mastered the science of publicity, he re- 
garded that as one of the major blunders of his life. His 
change of name squared the account; all the new com- 
pany's publicity now had to glorify Sam personally. It 
was years, however, before Goldfish could get himself 
accepted as Goldwyn. Broadway resented the loss of so 
much sure-fire comedy. Sam is still occasionally ad- 
dressed as "Mr. Goldfish." That is offering Sam the poi- 

>49 «- 



<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -f> 

soned chalice. Disgruntled employees hold it out to the 
last. 

As an embittered newspaperman looks forward to call- 
ing the managing editor a so-and-so, so the cankered 
Goldwyn employee looks forward to saying "Good-by, 
Mr. Goldfish." ' 

In ousting Sam, the Zukor-Lasky group did not realize 
that they were creating a serious competitor. He was 
regarded as a good salesman, but as an ignoramus about 
picture making. In less than ten years, however, Gold- 
wyn's new company was as great a factor in the movie 
business as the Zukor-Lasky combination. One of Sam's 
first steps had been to interest famous Broadway pro- 
ducers like Sam Harris, Arthur Hopkins and Al Woods. 
Sam has a certain amiable and attractive side when he 
wants to employ it. The combination of nuisance value 
and charm generally proved irresistible. 

Sam was out to make great pictures, Goldwyn epics. 
He was willing to experiment and take chances. Arthur 
Hopkins made two suggestions for elevating the art, both 
of which were eagerly embraced by Goldwyn. The first 
was to have famous designers make the set. Hugo Ballin 
and Everett Shinn were engaged. A great improvement 
in the picture-making art resulted. The second Hopkins 
suggestion was to make films without subtitles, the action 

■> 50 -f 



<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN <-> 

to be indicated so clearly that there would be no need to 
interrupt the flow of the picture for dialogue or verbal 
explanations. Hopkins was assigned to make Fighting 
Odds, a wordless picture. The idea excited all the sales- 
manship in Sam. If successful, it would give the new 
Goldwyn company a whirlwind start. When the all- 
pantomime film was partly made, theater owners were 
called in. Most of them thought their audiences would 
resent it. At the last minute the picture was filled with 
clumsy subtitles. The effect was disastrous. 

Sam's greatest problem was that of finding stars. His 
rivals had contracts with nearly all the screen favorites. 
The first world celebrity to march under the Goldwyn 
banner was Maxine Elliott, who had had a twenty-year 
reign as the most beautiful woman on the stage. She was 
not the film type, however, and she had the bad luck to 
be the star of Fighting Odds, the ruined experiment in 
wordless pictures. The film was not only a failure in it- 
self but it caused some exhibitors to cancel contracts for 
all future Goldwyn pictures. Sam's next effort to de- 
throne Mary Pickford and Theda Bara was his engage- 
ment of Mary Garden. She cost him $15,000 a week, 
and her Thais was a failure. Sam had supposed that 
Mary's prestige would sweep movie audiences off their 
feet, but he found that the movie public confused her 

* 5i + 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <->- 

with Mary Gardner, a heroine of the five-cent-picture 
days. Mary Garden is a great admirer of Goldwyn. "Sam 
and Oscar Hammerstein," she said, "are the two men 
you could trust without a contract." There was one con- 
solation for Sam— Zukor and Lasky made a bigger mis- 
take than he did. They tried to star Caruso as a romantic 
hero; on the silent screen he was just a 200-pound Nea- 
politan; the Caruso picture not only lost an enormous 
amount of cash but created a million dollars' worth of ill- 
will. 

Sam has boundless courage, and is always at his best 
in disaster. He is unhappy and frightened when his affairs 
are prospering. Goldwyn hits alarm him; they inspire the 
fear that he and his whole staff will start resting on their 
oars. A famous director said, "I asked Sam how his Anna 
Sten picture was doing. His face lit up. He beamed and 
said, Tm losing my shirt.' I asked him about his Cantor 
picture. His jaw dropped and he became a picture of 
misery. He said, It'll make me a million.' ' 

Sam was at his happiest and best in 19 18 when the 
sheriff's hot breath was always on his neck. He had in- 
vested huge sums in the wrong stars. The war had re- 
duced theater attendance. In order to save coal, the Gov- 
ernment had cut the commercial use of electric light, so 
that it was impracticable to make pictures at the Gold- 

* 5* + 



^^^i. 



$* 



mmm 



.*»y. 



".V 



*w 



lit: 




H 






>>>>>>>> > tt < < < < -f < < < < 

THREE MEN OF MOODS 

Left to right: Harpo Marx, 
Max Reinhardt, Samuel Gold- 

wyn. 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN "f> 

wyn studio at Fort Lee, New Jersey. His competitors 
were using the free sunshine of Hollywood. Sam broke 
his ankle playing handball at the New York Athletic 
Club. He lay in a hospital bed with his injured leg in a 
hammock when a committee of his associates, including 
Al Woods, Arthur Hopkins, Sam Harris and Edgar Sel- 
wyn, called to tell him that bankruptcy was inevitable. 
Each told blacker news than the other. Sam sat propped 
up on the pillows, his fingertips pressed together. He 
beamed. 

"Gentlemen," he said, "I see nothing but roses." 
He met the week's pay roll by wiring his agencies to 
forward all cash on hand. Then he made some swift con- 
tacts with the Du Ponts and other sources of money. The 
armistice came in time to help him. Soon Sam was flour- 
ishing again. As he flourished, he became unhappy and 
began to squabble with his new associates. They got to- 
gether and voted him out of his own company. Trouble 
made Sam less objectionable; they voted him back again. 
After a merger, the Goldwyn company became 
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Sam got out finally in 1923. 
There were some negotiations for his return. These, it 
was said, failed because Sam now wanted to change the 
name of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to Metro-Goldwyn- 
Mayer & Goldwyn. Sam started a third company in 1923, 

* 53 <■ 



<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<-> 

but he found himself in grave danger of losing his beau- 
tiful new name. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer sued to prevent 
Sam. from calling himself Goldwyn. A compromise was 
finally reached, permitting Sam to offer his pictures with 
the announcement, "Samuel Goldwyn Presents." 

Goldwyn has a long record of "discoveries." Again 
and again he has made stars out of extras and bit players, 
but one young actress whom he failed to discover was 
Frances Howard. While Miss Howard was in her teens, 
Billic Burke took her to the Goldwyn studio in New 
York for a screen test. Sam saw the test. He called the 
head of the screen-test department upon the carpet. 
"Why," he demanded, "do you waste time and money 
this way?" Later Sam saw Miss Howard personally. The 
first time he ever spoke to her, he said, "You used to be 
fairly good-looking. Now that you've gone and bobbed 
your hair, you're terrible." 

Sam was at that time campaigning against short hair. 
He felt so keenly on the subject that he once instructed 
his press department to cable to Rome and invite the 
Vatican to join him in his crusade against the bob. About 
a year after the screen test, Miss Howard made a hit on 
Broadway as the flapper in The Best People. She was 
hailed as one of the great beauties of the time. Paramount 
signed her and she made a screen hit as the star in The 

■> 54 «- 



«<->- THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

Swan. Sam reversed himself. On April 23, 1925, he and 
Miss Howard were married at the City Hall, in Jersey 
City. 

Just before they drove over to Jersey City, Miss How- 
ard said, "Sam, there's a new magazine called The New 
Yorker. I hear it's clever. I wish you would get me a 
copy of it." 

Sam got a copy. While waiting for his fiancee, he 
started reading it in his automobile. He was surprised to 
see his own picture. It was over an article which de- 
scribed Sam as the greatest man in Hollywood, a giant 
among pygmies. It credited him with imagination, infal- 
lible intuition, unlimited courage. Then it proceeded to 
explain Sam's greatness on the theory that he only had 
ten words in his vocabulary, most of them bad. A ten- 
word man, it argued, can always trample on the intellec- 
tuals, puzzled in their fogs of learning. On the other 
hand, it stated that five-word men could tower over and 
crush Sam with ease. In the course of some tributes to his 
artistic integrity, it said that an instinctive love of beauty 
was Sam's greatest trait next to acquisitiveness; also that he 
had once said to Edna Ferber, "I would rather make a 
great artistic picture than— than eat a good meal." Sam 
put the magazine away when Miss Howard entered the 
car; later he opened a window and pushed it out. 

* 55 + 



*f> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <->* 

"What was that?" she asked. 

He ignored the question and talked rapidly of other 
things. 

"Did you get the magazine?" she asked. 

"I forgot," said Sam. 

He told people afterward that he was afraid she would 
break the engagement if she read it before the ceremony. 
"I learned later," said Sam, "that the article had been 
written by my press agent." 

Sam had sworn Edgar Selwyn, his best man, to secrecy 
about the wedding. 

"Why?" asked Selwyn. 

"I don't want any publicity," said Sam. 

"You don't want any publicity!" said Selwyn. 

"No," said Sam, "I don't want any publicity." 

Selwyn had never before known Sam to make any 
anti-publicity arrangements; it was like Dexter Fellows 
asking people to make a confidential matter of the circus. 
Selwyn kept the secret, but he didn't think Sam would. 
There were mobs of newspapermen at the wedding. Sam 
posed relentlessly for the photographers and scraped 
conversations indefatigably with the reporters. 

"I thought you didn't want any publicity," said Sel- 
wyn. 

"Can I control the press?" inquired Goldwyn. 

-> 56 + 



>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >a< <<<<<<<<<<<<<< < 




GOLDWYN HAS ALWAYS HAD A PASSION FOR 
quality. When he was a nineteen-year-old glove 
salesman, he tried to organize a company to manufac- 
ture gloves of unparalleled quality. The plan collapsed 
because the financial backer withdrew on learning that 
Sam was a minor and could not be bound by a contract. 
"Quality" pictures were Sam's aim when he entered 
the films in 191 3, and he was a leading factor in the 
change from the Wild West thrillers and the white- 
slave shockers to the modern feature picture. In 19 19, 
Sam wanted to elevate the pictures again. For several 
years he had had the idea that the writer should be the 
key man in the pictures; that the scenario or script 

* 57 «- 



-<-> THE GREAT G O L D W Y N ■<-> 

should be something better than a rough draft for a di- 
rector to follow or throw away, as he saw fit. Sam had 
an inspiration; he would corner the world supply of lit- 
erary artists; all great writers would be Goldwyn writers. 

In his enthusiasm, Sam thought that he might be able 
to advertise the names of the writers in big lights and 
the names of the stars in small lights. If the movie public 
accepted this, it would solve Sam's problem. When he 
broke away from Zukor and Lasky in 191 6, and founded 
his own company, Goldwyn's great difficulty was that 
of finding stars. His competitors had most of the popu- 
lar favorites under contract. If Sam could make the pub- 
lic more excited over Gertrude Atherton than Mary 
Pickford or wilder over Gouverneur Morris than Doug- 
las Fairbanks, the Goldwyn company would lead the 
field. 

Sam organized The Eminent Authors Inc. His first 
consignment of genius to arrive in Hollywood included 
Rex Beach, Rupert Hughes, Mary Roberts Rinehart, 
Gertrude Atherton, Basil King, Gouverneur Morris and 
Leroy Scott. Sam's new move frightened his competi- 
tors. They doubted if men of letters would become 
great box-office stars, but they wanted to be protected. 
Sam had cleaned up the home market so thoroughly 
that his rivals had to import Elinor Glyn, Sir Gilbert 

-> 58 <- 



■<->- THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<->■ 

Parker, Somerset Maugham, Arnold Bennett and others. 
Ordinary writers were weeded out of the studios to 
make room for famous authors. One of the ousted sce- 
narists was Darryl F. Zanuck, now chief of Twentieth 
Century-Fox, who was reduced to working in a ship- 
yard. 

For a time the heaviest duty of Sam's eminent authors 
was that of being photographed in the act of gazing ad- 
miringly at Sam. When they started to write for the 
pictures, the results were not uniform. 

Sam read the first work of Leroy Scott and said: "Mr. 
Scott, you are undoubtedly the greatest writer in the 
world, but maybe this is not good for the movies." 

When he read the first scenario by Basil King, Sam 
said, "Mr. King, you are undoubtedly the greatest writer 
in the world, but maybe this is not good for the movies." 

Every Goldwyn author was told that he was un- 
doubtedly the greatest writer in the world, and so on. 
The venture was not wholly a failure, however. Sam 
got his money's worth in publicity, and Rupert Hughes 
wrote the script of The Old Nest, which drew more 
than a million dollars at the box office. 

Sam wanted to make a Goldwyn writer of George 
Bernard Shaw. They discussed it over tea one day in 
London. Shaw thought Sam was too esthetic to be a 

* 59 + 



<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->■ 

practical man. A version of the conversation was cabled 
over to Howard Dietz, Goldwyn's publicity chief; he 
compressed Shaw's words into: "The trouble, Mr. Gold- 
wyn, is that you are only interested in art and I am 
only interested in money." This was cabled back to 
London and released there. It added considerably to 
Shaw's reputation as a wit. 

The most eminent of Goldwyn's Eminent Authors 
was Maurice Maeterlinck. The great Belgian poet had 
come to the United States shortly after the war for a 
lecture tour. His first appearance was at Carnegie Hall. 
Maeterlinck spoke no English. He wrote the lecture in 
French and had it translated literally into English. Then 
he had each English syllable retranslated into a French 
syllable. Each English sound was to be rendered by an 
approximate French sound. The result was a lecture in 
mispronounced anagrams. Delivered to a Franco-Amer- 
ican audience, it was equally unintelligible to the French 
and to the Americans. It was a new literary form; it was 
not even nonsense, so it topped Gertrude Stein. 

The lecture caused the cancellation of the rest of the 
lecture tour. Maeterlinck was free, and Sam went after 
him. Since his words had to be translated, Sam was shorn 
of half of his sales craft; his gestures and grimaces failed 

-> 60 + 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<->■ 

to synchronize with his selling points. Thus handi- 
capped, Sam made slow progress. He thought the poet's 
weakness was vanity, and he tried to play on this infirm- 
ity by explaining what it meant to Maeterlinck to get to 
be a Goldwyn writer; how proud the folks back home 
would be. Sam made a success story of it— a rookie be- 
coming a big-league star overnight. Maeterlinck looked 
blank. Sam tried again to fire the man's ambition; "You'll 
get equal treatment with Rex Beach," he said. Maeter- 
linck still had an expression of bewilderment which Sam 
took for an expression of incredulity. Sam ordered all 
the contracts with eminent authors to be brought in. 

"You're getting as much money as any of them," said 
Sam. To verify this, he handed the Basil King contract 
to Maeterlinck. 

"You know Basil King?" said Sam. 

This was translated to Maeterlinck, who said: "Non." 

Other contracts were handed to the Belgian, and 
other questions translated by the interpreter. 

"You know Rupert Hughes?" 

"Norn" 

"Mary Roberts Rinehart?" 

"Non." 

"Rex Beach?" 

-> 61 <- 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<-> 

"Non." 

Sam went down the list, getting a "Non" at each 
name. 

He turned to his press agent and whispered: "What's 
the matter with this guy? Is he dumb?" 

Maeterlinck understood five figures, however, and he 
joined the Goldwyn literary colony. The private car 
which had been used by Woodrow Wilson when he 
stumped the country for the League of Nations was ob- 
tained by Howard Dietz, the publicity chief, for Mae- 
terlinck's trip from New York to Hollywood. A pub- 
licity man was placed on the car to issue, at every stop, 
statements by Maeterlinck glorifying America and 
Goldwyn. 

America was eager to hear from the poet. The Blue 
Bird craze started by Maeterlinck's play was fresh in the 
public mind. The publicity scheme was a disappoint- 
ment, however, to Dietz and Goldwyn. One member of 
the party in the private car was Maeterlinck's lecture 
manager. Maeterlinck would soon pick up enough Eng- 
lish to make a million-dollar lecture tour of America, 
according to the manager's reasoning, and he had a con- 
tract for a percentage of the receipts. He reasoned fur- 
ther that, if Maeterlinck gave away a lot of words now, 
he would not be able to sell them later. To the lecture 

> 62. <- 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->- 

manager, every Maeterlinck statement to the press to- 
day meant a hundred empty seats sometime in the fu- 
ture. The entire journey was a battle between the pub- 
licity man and the lecture manager, the poet siding with 
the lecture manager, who wore a frock coat and called 
him ''Master." For hundreds of miles at a stretch, the 
Maeterlinck special got less publicity than a cattle train. 

Goldwyn's representative at Dallas was a go-getting 
Texan named Lew Remy. He arranged a banquet there 
for Maeterlinck. The mayor of Dallas, the governor of 
Texas and all the leading citizens of the Southwest came. 
The banquet was a disappointment. The great Belgian 
did not arrive. The lecture manager had rerouted the 
private car and made it miss Dallas entirely. Lew Remy 
learned the new route that the Maeterlinck party was 
taking, and wired to a Texas friend at another town to 
meet the train and page the lecture manager. "Then 
punch him in the nose," concluded Remy's message. The 
lecture manager was duly paged. 

"Are you Mr. — ?" asked Remy's friend. 

"I am," said the manager. 

Instantly he was stretched out flat on the platform. 

Arriving finally at Hollywood, Maeterlinck demanded 
a house on a hilltop, so that he could see the sun better. 
That was provided. There are witnesses in Hollywood 

-> 63 + 



-f> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

who will sign affidavits that Maeterlinck's first effort 
was a film adaptation of his Life of a Bee, and that, on 
reading it, Goldwyn ran out screaming, "My God, the 
hero is a bee!" Goldwyn's own recollection is that Mae- 
terlinck's first scenario was about a little boy and a mat- 
tress and a lot of blue feathers. 

In order to saturate the poet in Hollywood psychol- 
ogy, he was then taken, day after day, to projection 
rooms to see action pictures. His next scenario started 
with the lid slowly rising from a sewer in a street of 
Paris; up from the sewer came the face of a gory and 
bedraggled female Apache with a dagger gripped be- 
tween her teeth. Maeterlinck's Hollywood writings were 
not made into pictures. It is said that, when Maeterlinck 
left Hollywood, Goldwyn saw him to the station, pat- 
ted him on the shoulder and said, "Don't worry, Mau- 
rice. You'll make good yet." 

Maeterlinck was at Cannes a year ago when Goldwyn 
was there with Lord Beaverbrook; Sam was asked if he 
wanted to meet Maeterlinck; "No," he said, "I saw 
enough of that man years ago." 

In spite of his experiences with Maeterlinck and cer- 
tain other members of Eminent Authors Pictures, Inc., 
Goldwyn always stuck to his theory that the writers 
were the most important people in the pictures. Gold- 

■> 64 «- 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->■ 

wyn is king, but writers are those nearest the throne. 
Sam will go anywhere, do anything, to sign a man he 
thinks is a great writer. To some extent he has suffered 
because of his worship of letters. For nearly a quarter 
of a century he has surrounded himself with crack nov- 
elists and playwrights. They studied Goldwyn as a 
strange zoological specimen. They treasured his curious 
sayings and constantly added to the Goldwyn legend. 
Some intimates of Sam assert that he does not make any 
more breaks in English than any other man who was not 
reared by a governess, but that Sam's breaks are always 
caught and preserved. Except for years of close associa- 
tion with writers, Goldwyn would not be known today 
as a surrealist word painter and master of the misspoken 
word. On the other hand, Sam has benefited by his as- 
sociation with writers. He can be articulate when he 
abandons his mind to it; much of the time, however, he 
is struggling with ideas and lets expression take care of 
itself. Sam may be lucky that his English education con- 
sisted only of one year at night school; his power seems 
to consist in a simplicity and elemental directness of 
mind which does not always flourish under higher edu- 
cation. There was not even a dictionary at the night 
school that Sam attended. He was astonished at the 
enormous size of a volume which was brought forth at 

+ 65 -f 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN •<->■ 

a Hollywood party to be consulted at the game of Gug- 
genheim, 

"What a big book!" said Sam. "Who wrote it?" 

"Webster," was the reply. 

"It must have taken him a long time." 

"About a century." 

"My, my!" said Sam. "Fifty years!" 

Sam laid no claim to being an artist when he organized 
the Lasky company in 191 3. He was the salesman and 
businessman of the company. When he organized his 
own company in 191 6, he was everything. He found 
that he had to do his own editing and cutting in order to 
keep studio politics and studio amours out of the pic- 
tures. Some of the directors were more intent on their 
own romances than on those of the pictures; close-ups 
and other scenes were sometimes slipped in for reasons 
not connected with the plot. Salesmanship was Gold- 
wyn's specialty, and he found that he ought to know all 
about his pictures in order to sell them. 

For example, after the war Sam saw a chance to in- 
vade England, so he looked for pictures that he could 
sell to the British public. Among others he made Lord 
and Lady Algy and The Gay Lord Quex. He went 
abroad to sell them. One of his cables home was, "I went 
to see Lord and Lady Algy three nights ago and I am 

* 66 + 



-«-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

still sick." Sam insisted on better pictures, so that he 
could sell them better. He absorbed picture knowledge 
rapidly and developed into one of the shrewdest judges 
of story values. 

Sam's competitors were slow in admitting his talent as 
a producer, but they venerated him as a salesman, show- 
man and publicity man. He has always been considered 
unequalled at stirring up excitement about his forth- 
coming pictures. Theater owners bleated about Sam's 
prices, but they nearly all paid them. One of Sam's rare 
defeats in a duel between buyer and seller was inflicted 
on him by the late Abraham Finkelstein, of Minneapolis. 
Salesmen reported that Finkelstein was obdurate; he posi- 
tively refused to buy a Goldwyn picture at the price 
asked. Sam gave the agent an inspirational talk by tele- 
phone; the agent tackled Finkelstein again, but failed 
again. "I'll go there myself and show you how to sell 
pictures," said Sam. 

He was off for Minneapolis. Finkelstein, a tall, elderly, 
stoop-shouldered man, listened to Sam with grave cour- 
tesy until Sam named the price; then he pressed a 
buzzer. Two men in the uniforms of lunatic-asylum at- 
tendants came in and led Sam out. Sam came back later 
and announced that he would build a theater in Minne- 
apolis and run Finkelstein out of business. Finkelstein 

> 67 + 



■<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <->• 

reached for his hat and coat. "Come with me," he said, 
"and I'll show you the best sites." He drove Sam around 
town, pointing out the good locations for movie palaces, 
but Sam didn't build. 

Sam's love of publicity for the name of Goldwyn has 
been attributed to egotism. This theory is not utterly 
fantastic. Sam does not try to conceal the fact that he 
has an ego. In a word battle with Herman Shumlin, the 
Broadway producer, Sam could think of nothing more 
withering to say than "You're a bigger egotist than I 
am." Publicity for the name of Goldwyn, however, is 
important in salesmanship. The public may not be 
stampeded into picture houses by the mere name of 
Goldwyn, but the name does mean something to pro- 
prietors and managers of motion-picture houses. If Sam 
made inferior pictures, his personal publicity would be 
injurious to him. His name would be associated in the 
minds of exhibitors with vacant seats and red ink. While 
Sam steadily produces superior pictures, his personal pub- 
licity is an important department of salesmanship. Sam 
has had many of the best press agents in the country, but 
they have never got enough publicity to satisfy him for 
long. Pete Smith, now the famous Voice of the Films, 
was a Goldwyn press agent. He did satisfy Sam once for 
two or three days by a publicity coup. 

-> 68 + 



ti 3*M 



r0 



r 



V* 





HI 






J^K&, ' H 


' 




■ ""'- ■■■-< i 


PP i* 5 









>>>>>>> 

TIME OUT ON THE SET 

This picture was taken during 
the fihning of "Barbary Coast" 
in 193 5. Left to right: Miriam 
Hopkins, Mr. Goldwyn, Edna 
Ferber, Howard Hawks, Law- 
rence Tibbett, Edward G. Rob- 
inson. 

>>>>>>>>> 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -f> 

^—— ^ ^ — ■ — — — — ^^^-^^^^^^^^^"^^^^^^» 

Pete Smith proposed the idea that Sam should get him- 
self talked about by announcing that there were only 
thirteen real actors in Hollywood and naming them. Sam 
was afraid at first; he thought it would create thirteen 
ingrates and a thousand enemies. Finally Sam had a 
stroke of genius himself; he said, "I'll name twelve and 
say the thirteenth is a mystery, and every actor and 
actress in Hollywood will think he's the mystery." It 
made a sensation, and Sam followed it up next day with a 
column discussing possible entries for the thirteenth 
place. 

Sam was abroad part of the time while Pete Smith was 
his press agent. He returned to Hollywood full of en- 
thusiasm. Laying some large photographs of himself be- 
fore the press agent, Sam said: "What do you think of 
those?" 

"All right," said Smith. 

"Only all right?" inquired Sam. 

"They do justice to you," said Smith. "They look as 
if they would reproduce all right." 

"Pete, I'm disappointed in you," said Goldwyn. "Don't 
you see they're eleven by fourteen inches? They're too 
big for the newspapers to put in one column. Don't you 
grasp the idea? From now on they'll have to print my 
picture in two columns." 

■> 69 + 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN ^~> 

The publicity man broke his employer's heart by ex- 
plaining that newspapers could take a photograph as big 
as a billboard and reduce it to a one-column cut. Pete 
Smith, like some other hard-boiled publicity men who 
worked for Goldwyn, did not take him too seriously, 
and put up with his tantrums as long as he paid well. 

Sam had a love of being met by impressive turnouts 
on his arrival from New York or Europe. Smith man- 
aged to get a couple of bona-fide news photographers 
down to the train, and then padded out the camera bat- 
talion by calling on personal friends to show up at the 
station with cameras. 

Sam, always a tremendous walker, used to make Smith 
walk with him in the mornings from the Goldwyn home 
to the Goldwyn studio, a distance of four or five miles. 
One morning Sam saw a rival's advertising banner 
stretched across Beverly Boulevard. 

"That's good advertising," said Sam. "That's what I 
want for our premiere. Only instead of one banner, I 
want hundreds— one on every corner, all the way to the 
theater." 

Smith saw that the banner stretched across the street 
between two pieces of property owned by the rival com- 
pany. He could see that Goldwyn's idea of hundreds of 
banners would mean hundreds of negotiations with prop- 

> 70 + 



-<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

erty owners. Furthermore, there was a city ordinance 
against such banners. He knew, however, that opposi- 
tion would only make Sam rabid in favor of the idea. His 
only escape from an impossible task was to make a bad 
argument in favor of it. 

He estimated that the banners would cost about fifteen 
dollars apiece, and he said: "That's a great scheme. Those 
banners will only cost a hundred and fifty or a hundred 
and seventy-five dollars apiece. We can put up two hun- 
dred of them for about thirty thousand dollars, or more 
if you like." 

It ended with Goldwyn rebuking Smith for having 
such an expensive and mediocre idea. 

The Goldwyn publicity department is a sort of public- 
health department at times. The streak of the absolute 
monarch in Sam inspires him with real anxiety for the 
health of all the potentates of the earth. He is said to 
identify himself with them so closely that when one is 
sick, Sam goes on a diet; when one dies, Sam feels that 
his own time has come. 

He is like a certain Princess of Tarente, who put on 
mourning whenever a member of any royal house died 
in any part of Europe. On one occasion she did appear 
in brilliant colors; Madame de Sevigne said, "Madame, I 
rejoice in the health of Europe." Similarly, if Sam is gay, 

* 71 <■ 



<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <->- 

it means there are not likely to be any big obituaries in 
the paper tomorrow. He does at times worry about other 
than the top personalities. One Saturday afternoon he 
met a studio executive who seemed seriously stricken. 
"You look all run down," said Sam. "Go home. Don't 
come back till Monday morning." Sam was discovered 
one day in distress. He had before him a letter telling 
him not to send any more money to an aged woman liv- 
ing in New York, because she had died; she had been 
Sam's first landlady when he arrived in New York as a 
boy, and had fed and lodged him when he was broke. 
Another streak of humanity asserted itself in Goldwyn 
once when he recognized an extra on one of his sets. 
"Come away quick," he said to his studio manager. The 
extra had once been a Goldwyn star; she had quarreled 
with him, had become a free lance and had bad luck. "I 
didn't want her to see me," said Goldwyn. "It would 
embarrass her." His chief anxiety, however, is for great 
people. 

He called up his press agent one morning and asked: 
"How is the President?" 

"Fine," said the press agent. "I was with him last night 
and he was fine." 

"What do you mean, you were with him last night?" 

"Mr. Schenck and I were together last night," said 

> 72- <- 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <->■ 

the press agent, referring to Joseph Schenck, president 
of United Artists. 

"No, no," said Goldwyn. "I mean Roosevelt. The 
paper says he has a cold. Find out how he is and let me 
know at once." 

The press agent telephoned to a friend on the United 
Press and found out the President was all right. He then 
telephoned to Goldwyn and said: "I had the UP carry 
a special wire to the White House saying Mr. Goldwyn 
was anxious to know how the President was this morn- 
ing, and the President thanks Mr. Goldwyn for his kind- 
ness and says that he is feeling much better." 

"That's the kind of service I like," said Goldwyn. He 
was satisfied with the press agent for hours. 

As Pete Smith used to pad the welcoming camera bat- 
teries with dummies, another press agent used to uphol- 
ster the Goldwyn interviews with fraudulent interroga- 
tors. Two or three local reporters would be present. In 
addition, the publicity man would call in eight or ten re- 
liable pals who would be presented to Goldwyn as "Mr. 
Wolgast, of the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Berlenbach, of 
the New York Times, Mr. Greb, of the London Daily 
News," and so on. Devices of this kind, however, were 
only used when it was considered important to put on a 
special show. The Goldwyn publicity man's brain is usu- 

* 73 «- 



"<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

ally working with great rapidity in the interest of get- 
ting big displays in newspapers and magazines. Goldwyn 
men have to have their hearts in the cause. 

There has always been an argument among Goldwyn 
scholars as to whether his rages are genuine, or part of a 
routine. Sam is an old head salesman both in gloves and 
pictures. A head salesman's business is to scourge the 
soul of the junior salesman in order to fill him with enter- 
prise. You blast his morale, accuse him of wrongfully 
cumbering the earth and cheating potter's field, and then 
send him forth to overwhelm the customers with his vic- 
torious personality. However, Goldwyn does not dis- 
criminate in favor of his own subordinates in his rages 
and furies; he has had shouting affrays with nearly all the 
big figures in the industry, and when he lets go there is 
not a word in or out of the language that he hesitates to 
use. The theory that his tornadoes are artificial is based 
on the fact that he can turn off the ferocity and turn on 
the charm in an instant. He has no hangover from one 
mood to another. An outburst that might leave another 
man sick for days is completely out of Sam's system the 
moment the uproar is over. He is too busy to waste time 
in the transition from one emotional state to another. A 
split second separates Ivan the Terrible from Mr. Pick- 
wick. 

■> 74 + 



"<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<-> 

One day Sam blazed away at his current press chief, 
Jock Lawrence, most of the afternoon. After going to 
bed that night, Sam summoned the press agent and started 
blazing away again. Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., then a boy of 
seven or eight, entered the room to say good night to his 
father. Sam's fist stopped in mid-air; he beamed; he chat- 
ted gaily about school problems; at last he tenderly ad- 
vised his son to run along and get plenty of sleep. 

As the boy was leaving the room, Sam made a genial 
gesture in the direction of Jock Lawrence and cooed: 
"Kiss Uncle Jock good night." 

The boy obeyed and left. 

"And furthermore — " resumed Sam, furiously ad- 
dressing the publicity man, starting to rail at him again 
from the precise point at which he had been interrupted 
by the entrance of Sam, Jr. 

Sam thinks so fast that the latter end of his argument 
sometimes refutes the beginning. 

"I have never had a lawsuit in my career," he said. 
"That shows you that I'm easy to get along with. I'm 
the most reasonable man out here. I've never had a law- 
suit worth mentioning. Three or four, maybe. Right now 
I'm being sued by Paramount for 6.vq million dollars. It's 
one of the most important lawsuits in the country." 

He started a speech to salesmen once by telling them 

* 75 + 



<->* THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

to be reasonable with theater owners, some of whom had 
complained of being gouged. He asked the salesmen to 
be very moderate in their demands. But in his peroration 
the old sales instinct seized him, and he exhorted them to 
go after the last cent. The final line of his speech is gen- 
erally quoted. "This business is dog eat dog, and nobody 
is going to eat me." 

He complained by telephone because another studio 
had borrowed a Goldwyn writer for a few hours with- 
out his permission. Sam was told that every effort had 
been made to get in touch with him, and that it was 
finally assumed that he would have been agreeable. 

Sam kept repeating: "If you only had the decency to 
ask me." 

"What would you have said, Mr. Goldwyn?" 

"I would have said 'No,' " replied Sam. 

Sam fears contentment. He has seen contentment ruin 
many of the great figures in the industry. He is afraid 
of making the people around him contented; that is one 
cause of his being more liberal with blame than with 
praise. A press agent once wanted to resign; one reason 
was that Goldwyn had never said a good word about his 
work. "If I don't say it's bad, it's good," said Sam. He 
hates yes men; he loves no men, but he is fond of having 
no men answer him in the affirmative. This becomes com- 

> 76 -<- 



4"> THE GREAT GOLDWYN ■<-> 

plicated. Sam once became greatly smitten with a Holly- 
wood executive noted for his rugged way of saying no. 
Sam hired him at an enormous salary; the man turned 
out to be a yes man; he could say no to others, but not 
to the furious Goldwyn. The contract expired; the em- 
ployee was held over on a weekly salary to finish a job; 
no longer in awe of Sam, he was able to say, "It stinks. 
. . . It's awful. . . . It's gruesome," and so on. Sam, im- 
pressed, put him under contract again; the man again 
started saying, "It's fine. . . . It's great. . . . It's wonder- 
ful," and wa^ useless again. 

Sam is at his best when talking to one person. He is a 
tete-a-tete evangelist. His man-to-man conferences be- 
come rousing revivals or camp meetings, and usually end 
with the party of the second part on the mourner's 
bench, putting his signature on a contract. The day be- 
fore his death last January, Richard Boleslawski, the de- 
rector, said that one of his most memorable experiences 
was a talk with Goldwyn. 

"My book, The Way of a Lancer, had just come out," 
he said. "Sam called me over in great haste and wanted 
to buy it then and there. I told him there were two other 
interested parties and that I couldn't sell it without their 
permission. He handed me two telephones and said, 'Get 
them.' I got one in New York and one in Ohio. Sam bat- 

+ 77 + 



"<->• THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<~> 

tied with them over the price, but a good stiff one was 
finally agreed on. 'We'll sign right now/ said Sam, put- 
ting five hundred dollars option money in my hand. I 
said I thought I ought to see my lawyer. He put his arm 
around me and said, Til be your lawyer.' I tried to argue, 
but he hypnotized me. There was no standing up against 
his impetuosity. He drew up the contract and T signed 
it. Later he changed his mind and didn't want to make 
The Way of a Lancer. I thought the contract called for 
the amount agreed on, but it only called for the five hun- 
dred dollars option money. I never felt that Sam intended 
to take advantage, but I thought I would have been bet- 
ter advised to see a lawyer. That was my only personal 
contact with him, but I am one of his greatest admirers. 
He has a real and spontaneous love of beauty. He hates 
the phony and will do anything to get the real thing." 



* 78 + 



>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >ft< <<<<<<<<<<<<<< < 




THE ONLY PROLONGED VACATION THAT GOLD- 
wyn ever took during his movie career was in 1923. 
It was an involuntary one. Sam had been defeated in a 
battle for control of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The head 
of the anti-Goldwyn faction was the late Joe Godsol. 
The hate between Joe and Sam was satanic. Godsol was 
not satisfied with taking Sam's company away from him. 
In an effort to inflict the greatest possible humiliation on 
Sam, Joe took to studying maps. He picked out a remote 
hamlet in Canada. He issued a peremptory order to Sam 
to proceed forthwith to this frontier post, establish an 
M-G-M office there and take charge of it. 

In order to enjoy his revenge to the full, Godsol had 

* 79 + 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

spies watch Sam and see how he took it. Sam was a dis- 
appointment. His everyday rages were so terrific that he 
could not improve on them. Sam appreciated the insult; 
he, a founder of the two greatest companies in the pic- 
tures, ordered to the region of perpetual snows; but he 
had developed his routine frenzy to such a point that he 
could not top it on a special occasion. 

Instead of going to Canada, Sam took a house at Great 
Neck, Long Island, and started to take it easy while law- 
yers adjusted his affairs with M-G-M. Arthur Hammer- 
stein, the Broadway producer, shared the Great Neck 
house with Sam. 

One day Goldwyn arrived at Great Neck, dusty and 
abnormally indignant. "I'm going to have that chauffeur 
arrested," he said. Before his row with M-G-M, Sam had 
bossed thousands; since then he had only had his driver 
to boss. Sam did not know how to operate a car him- 
self, but he was outraged by every move the driver made. 
For days the man was the exclusive recipient of the an- 
ger which Goldwyn had normally distributed among 
multitudes. Finally he drove Goldwyn to a lonely spot 
on the Jericho Turnpike in the most deserted section of 
Long Island. He stopped the car and got out. "I'm quit- 
ting," he said, and walked rapidly off. Goldwyn had to 
tramp for miles to find a man to drive him home. 

■> 80 + 



<<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <-> 

While he was marking time at Great Neck, Goldwyn 
started to dictate his memoirs. Sam's prose at that time 
was not up to his later standard. Hammerstein asked, 
"Who's going to translate it for you?" It was entitled, 
Behind the Screen. Sam sold the book, magazine, serial 
and other rights to it for more than $ 1 00,000. The book 
complimented everybody in the pictures except Godsol. 
Between stretches of dictation, Sam learned to swim at 
the Great Neck beach. Even Sam's paddling in Long Is- 
land Sound was done in royal Goldwyn manner. He was 
always going too far out and being rescued. Sam was the 
sovereign; all others his faithful liege men. He risked 
drowning because he felt sure that a retinue of his faith- 
ful subjects would always be at hand to save him. 

Sam's long vacation ended after he had sold his inter- 
est in M-G-M for a big price. He now founded a new 
company, Samuel Goldwyn, Inc., Ltd. After his experi- 
ences with associates, directors and stockholders, Sam de- 
cided to have nothing further to do with them, and for 
the last fourteen years he has been absolute within his 
own domain. His former companies are great organiza- 
tions, each of which turns out forty-five or fifty pictures 
a year. Goldwyn is content to make only eight or nine, 
but he works over every detail of these. He has vetoed 
all proposals to expand by selling stock to the public or 

> 81 + 



-<->- THE GREAT GOLDWYN •«-»- 

by taking in partners. "I found," he said, "that it took a 
world of time to explain my plans to my associates; now 
I can save all that time and energy, and put it into mak- 
ing better pictures." 

Sam has become more important since he started to go 
it alone and to make a comparatively small number of 
pictures annually. His former associates rubbed their eyes 
twelve years ago when he made Stella Dallas. When he 
followed this with The Dark Angel, it had to be admit- 
ted that Stella Dallas was no accident. Sam had to be a 
pacemaker in quality. As an independent competing with 
the big factories of Hollywood and the large theater 
chains, he had to make superior pictures or quit. 

Goldwyn prides himself on looking ahead and reading 
the future. He has a good record as a prophet. When the 
talking picture came in, a decade ago, he saw that it 
would revolutionize love. The needle hiss, the frying 
sound and other incidental noises of the early apparatus 
spoiled the tender sequences. Audiences which used to 
pant at the prolonged clinches and three-minute kisses 
went into hysterics. The sweethearts of the early talkies 
were inclined to lisp or croak. John Gilbert and other 
important heartbreakers were whistled off the screen be- 
cause their love talk was a mixture of guttural and fal- 
setto. Ronald Colman, a Goldwyn star, was saved from 

* 82. «- 



-<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<->" 

this. Sam would not let Colman carry on a courtship or 
even a flirtation in the presence of the primitive micro- 
phone which caused a lover to low like a young bull 
calf. He took the star out of romance and put him into 
melodrama, and Colman maintained his prestige. There 
was no serious billing and cooing in Goldwyn pictures 
until the sound apparatus stopped making Romeos sound 
like barnyard imitators. 

Sam was one of the first to realize that dialogue was to 
be far more important in the talkies than subtitles had 
been in the silent pictures. One great director of that 
time had said, "We don't need anybody to write dia- 
logue. Just put the actors into the situations and let them 
say what pops into their minds." It was discovered that 
this did not work. It was also discovered that the writing 
of dialogue was different from the writing of subtitles. 
The ear was found to be more critical than the eye. The 
conversation, or subtitles, of the silent days could be 
naive or maudlin or bombastic without irritating the eye, 
but the ear was less tolerant. It was found to rebel against 
phony effects. Goldwyn had always regarded motion 
pictures as a branch of the writing trade; it was natural 
for him to foresee that the writer would now be su- 
preme; he immediately sought some of the leading play- 
wrights of the country to write his dialogue. The early 

■> 83 + 



■<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<~> 

Goldwyn pictures were highly finished products com- 
pared to most of the others. 

The new medium baffled Goldwyn in one respect. It 
made music an important factor in pictures. By instinct 
and experience, Sam knew nearly everything else about 
his art; he was able to put "the Goldwyn touch" on cos- 
tumes, settings, character, dialogue and plot construc- 
tion, but he did not know music. Sam's competitors were 
no better off than he was. Most of the magnates and ex- 
ecutives grappled resolutely with the new subject and 
became music masters in no time. As Al Newman, a 
Hollywood musical director, said, "Everybody here 
knows his business, plus music." By his talent for picking 
the right people, Sam has made successful musical shows, 
but he has not been able to Goldwynize his music. He 
cannot, as yet, give composers and song writers the same 
sure guidance that he bestows on other employees. 

Sam has developed a musical vocabulary of his own. 
When he made his first musical picture, he heard one- 
step time described as two-four time. He translated the 
phrase as "two-by-four time." Sam told a composer once 
that his music would not do. 

"What's the matter with it?" asked the composer. 

"There's not enough sarcasm in it," said Sam. 

More recently Sam became enthusiastic about the song, 

* 84 + 



SSk 




.■ifc. 

I — % 



>>>>>>>> > # < <<<<<<< < 

AFTER A PREVIEW 

Mr. Goldwyn, surrounded by 
members of his executive staff, 
discusses the audience reaction 
to a new Goldwyn production 
after a "sneak preview" at a 
Hollywood neighborhood the- 
atre. 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

Night and Day. "We must have something like Night 
and Day for our new show," he kept insisting. One man 
dined at the Goldwyn home after hearing Sam rave all 
afternoon about Night and Day. After dinner, Night 
and Day was played on the phonograph. "What tune is 
that?" asked Sam. 

Goldwyn wanted the Easter music exactly right for a 
Greek Orthodox church service in the picture, We Live 
Agai?i, based on Tolstoy's Resurrection. He was in ec- 
stasies when the service was played for him privately in 
the studio auditorium. Sam rushed around the lot, calling 
important executives away from their work to hear it. 
The music had been recorded on a film. Someone had 
forgotten to rewind it. At the second demonstration, the 
film began to move in the wrong direction, and the music 
was being played backwards. The technician detected 
the error and was about to correct it, when he heard 
murmurs of "Great" . . . "Magnificent." The thing had 
now gone too far; the technical man was afraid of get- 
ting into trouble, and he let the music continue in the re- 
verse. The entire Greek Orthodox Easter service was 
played backwards, and at the end the auditorium rang 
with applause. 

Sam is an autocrat. He cannot stand an equal or supe- 
rior in authority. But as long as his final say cannot be 

* 85 + 



<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

questioned, he is a glutton for suggestions. He goes 
around begging for criticism and advice. He is not in- 
ventive or creative. He occasionally gets an idea of his 
own, but even if he regards it as a stroke of genius he 
can be persuaded to give it up. In one of his pictures, 
Sam was having difficulty in finding a smooth transition 
from a black-and-white sequence to a color sequence. A 
solution was finally discovered; immediately afterward, 
Sam thought of a different solution. He called his advis- 
ers together, laid the new thought before them and asked 
their opinions. 

"We have spent weeks straightening the thing out, 
and this would throw it back into confusion," said one. 
Three others were equally hostile. 

The fifth said: "I don't know if I understood you cor- 
rectly, but if I did, it stinks." 

"I can get a bad idea," said Sam. 

Goldwyn hates to share power. He finds it equally 
objectionable to share glory. For years his head man was 
Arthur Hornblow, Jr. Sam had, and still has, a high re- 
spect for him. They parted because Hornblow wanted 
credit; he wanted a mention on the screen in pictures 
made largely by him. Sam's reaction to this was like that 
of Henry IV when he caught the Prince of Wales trying 
on the crown; he was wounded to the heart. The fact 

* 86 «- 



<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->" 

that Hornblow was entitled to screen credit, by all the 
canons of Hollywood, did not affect Sam. He was ready 
to give more money, European vacations, or anything 
except participation in the Goldwyn fame. 

The nearest that Sam came to dividing glory was his 
signing of Flo Ziegfeld in 1930 to help in making 
Whoopee, Sam's first talkie. As a partner, Ziegfeld would 
have been unbearable to Sam; as an employee he was 
highly acceptable. Sam listened humbly to the Great 
Ziegfeld; but when decisions were made, the Great Gold- 
wyn made them. One of the triumphs of Sam's career 
was the fact that Ziegfeld, in leaving Hollywood, car- 
ried off a troupe of Goldwyn girls with him and pre- 
sented them to Broadway as Ziegfeld girls. Ziegfeld had 
been delayed in going to Hollywood to help make 
Whoopee. Goldwyn picked his own chorus. "They're 
terrible, impossible," said Ziegfeld. Everyone was greatly 
impressed except Goldwyn. He looked on himself as a 
judge of beauty, and doubted if Ziegfeld could top his 
selections. Ziegfeld went back to New York and brought 
back two dozen Ziegfeld girls. The rival choruses were 
placed on display. "You win," said Ziegfeld rather mag- 
nificently. His chorus was shipped back to New York. 
After Whoopee had been completed, Ziegfeld signed up 
most of the Goldwyn girls. Among them were Virginia 

-> 87 + 



-f> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <->- 

Bruce, Barbara Weeks, Marian Marsh and Paulette God- 
dard. 

Will Rogers was one of Sam's first "discoveries." His 
first picture was made for Sam in 1919; for several years 
he appeared exclusively in Goldwyn comedies. In a sin- 
gle picture, Stella Dallas, Goldwyn raised Belle Bennett 
and Lois Moran from obscurity to stardom. The most 
important of the Goldwyn finds was Vilma Banky. Sam 
discovered Gary Cooper when Gary was a cowboy, but 
he failed to appreciate Cooper after discovering him. 
Ten years ago, Sam was paying Cooper fifty dollars a 
week; he generously released Cooper when the young 
actor got an offer of $200 a week; recently Goldwyn re- 
hired Cooper for $3000 a week. He regards his failure to 
develop Cooper in the first place as one of the major 
blunders of his career. Robert Montgomery is another 
Goldwyn discovery. Screen tests were made of Mont- 
gomery when he was an actor on Broadway. "His neck 
is too long," was the report. Sam saw the tests and said. 
"His neck is not too long; his collars are too short." He 
wired his office in New York to ask Arthur Richman, 
playwright and connoisseur of clothes, to have neck- 
correcting shirts made for Montgomery. New screen 
tests were made; the actor looked great in his inspired 
haberdashery. Through another man's mistake, Gold- 

■> 88 + 



-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<"> 

wyn did not get the benefit of this discovery. On the 
strength of the revised screen test, Montgomery was 
signed by M-G-M. 

Of all Goldwyn's discoveries, the costliest was Anna 
Sten. 

Goldwyn brought Miss Sten to this country from Po- 
land, after seeing her in a European film. He paid her a 
large salary for a year while English teachers and dra- 
matic coaches worked on her. He would not listen to 
adverse judgments of her. She had, in his opinion, the 
enigmatic countenance of the Sphinx. He went around 
telling everyone, "She has the face of a Spink." In addi- 
tion to the mysterious beauty which he saw in her, he 
said she was a great actress, and also a singer and dancer. 
He was disillusioned on the last two points. After hear- 
ing her sing, a vocal expert reported, "She has a small but 
highly disagreeable voice." Her limitations as a dancer 
were such that, in rehearsing for Nana, Goldwyn him- 
self hopped around on his left foot and tried to wrap his 
right leg around his neck, in an effort to teach her to 
cancan. She had a husband who was full of ideas which 
greatly differed from Goldwyn's. Sam signed the hus- 
band as an assistant director and sent him away to Cata- 
lina Island to work on another picture; but still Miss Sten 
was a problem. When Sam spent $411,000 on Nana, 

■> 89 «- 



<->• THE GREAT G O L D W Y N -<-> 

he scrapped everything that had been done and started 
all over. 

The morale of the studio broke under the terrific grind 
of imprinting the Goldwyn touch on Miss Sten. Nervous 
wrecks directed nervous wrecks. One day Miss Sten col- 
lapsed. "Brandy," cried Goldwyn. Work was resumed, 
but there were more collapses and more cries for restora- 
tives. On one scene was a gorgeous bed with carved 
swans and doves, the dream bed of the Nanas of all time. 
Between scenes, Miss Sten rested on it. 

Standing on a platform near her, a nervous wreck of a 
photographer kicked a fuse box, got a shock, fell ten feet 
and lay on the floor unconscious. 

Someone ran to the studio medical office, and in a few 
moments the doctor arrived, kit in hand. He overlooked 
the injured man, darted to the bed, and doused the star's 
nostrils with ammonia. She jumped out of bed and ran 
around screaming. Someone ordered work ended in or- 
der to save a score of mild neurotics from becoming 
strait jacket cases. Goldwyn's unconquerable spirit failed 
him, and he never tried to make that particular scene 
again. 

Sam does the best he can to make a picture right. 
After it is made, he usually accepts the verdict of the box 
office. Even two adverse verdicts did not convince him 

■> 90 -f 



<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->- 

that he was wrong about Sten. He went on to make a 
third failure with her. 

Goldwyn's expensive campaign to make the Ameri- 
can public like Anna Sten might not have occurred ex- 
cept for his success ten years earlier with Vilma Banky. 
He discovered Miss Banky when he saw her picture in a 
photograph shop at Budapest. This was a feat, because, 
when the photograph was sent to Hollywood, the Gold- 
wyn executives could see no possibilities in her. She ar- 
rived in Hollywood herself a few days after her photo- 
graph. 

Miss Banky was still bewildered on her arrival in Hol- 
lywood. "I thought I was being tricked," she told an 
interpreter. "I didn't believe the man was Goldwyn un- 
til he gave me two thousand dollars." Sam had signed a 
contract in Budapest giving her $250 a week for the first 
year, with increases up to $750 a week for the fifth year. 

After her enormous success in The Dark Angel, he 
voluntarily tore up the old contract and drew up a new 
one at $2000 a week, rising to $5000 a week on the 
fourth year. When Miss Banky married Rod La Roque, 
Sam took charge of the wedding and made it one of the 
most dignified and elegant in Hollywood history, up to 
the time when guests began to steal the floral decorations 
and the roast turkeys. 

> 91 <■ 



-<->" THE GREAT GOLDWYN •<-> 

Sam's experience with Miss Banky was unfortunate in 
the end. Her accent was too broad for the talkies and 
she would not undergo the toil necessary to master Eng- 
lish. Sam paid her about a quarter of a million dollars 
while she idled out the contract. By contrast Miss Banky 
reminds Sam of Geraldine Farrar, whom he regards as 
the woman of the ages; when Farrar found herself los- 
ing popularity and becoming a burden to her company, 
she tore up a contract which obligated Goldwyn to pay 
her $250,000. 

Sam is a great detail man. Nothing is unimportant to 
him. He is a marvel on fine points of costuming. His re- 
habilitation of Montgomery, by changing his collar, is 
the sort of thing he does regularly on the Goldwyn lot. 
He has both art and box office in mind, but he would 
not permit a cheap or tin-horn effect in a Goldwyn pic- 
ture, even if it could be mathematically demonstrated 
that the public would go wild about it. He will spend 
tens of thousands of dollars on obscure details that could 
not possibly cause the picture to sell one more ticket. In 
making one of his first talking pictures, Sam spent $20,- 
000 because of an unjust prejudice against a monosyl- 
lable. In a scene that was written by Sidney Howard, a 
waiter breaks the silence of a London club by dropping 

> 92. + 



«<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->- 

a spoon on the carpet; a startled clubman exclaims, 
"What is the meaning of this infernal din?" 

Sam was pleased with the scene when he saw it in the 
projection room, but knitted his brows afterward and 
said: "There was a word that sounded to me like 'din.' " 
This was corroborated. 

"What is that word 'din?' " asked Sam. 

"It means 'noise.' " 

"Then why didn't the writer say 'noise?' " demanded 
Sam. After thinking it over for a while, he ordered the 
entire scene remade. The settings had already been re- 
moved. Contracts with some of the actors had expired. 

"It makes no difference," said Sam. "We have to re- 
shoot it. The word is archaic." 

Actors were rehired. The scene was set again. In the 
meantime, Sam had been telling everyone about the ar- 
chaic word. Some great authority— said to be William 
Randolph Hearst— told him that "din" was not archaic, 
but was every bit as good as "noise." Sam then gave 
orders not to reshoot it. 

Part of Sam's greatness is in a twilight state that he 
gets into while making a picture. During this period he 
is highly suggestible. He is likely to accept a fantastic 
suggestion, develop it still more fantastically, waste a 

+ 93 + 



-f-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-»» 

small fortune on it and then suddenly come to his senses, 
exclaiming, "They're ruining me! Why do they do such 
things to me?" During this twilight state, a kind word 
will send Sam up into the clouds; a slur will chill his 
heart. He has always been that way. Arthur Hopkins 
quit Goldwyn eighteen years ago, saying, "I can't al- 
ways be shooting up in the elevator or shooting down in 
it with Sam." During the suggestible state, Sam adopts 
suggestions so quickly that he seems to have originated 
them. An executive of Sam's was once asked what kind 
of man Goldwyn was. He replied, "Goldwyn is the 
kind of man who, if he understands what you tell him, 
thinks he thought of it himself." While he is in the fog, 
however, Sam is always ransacking other men's minds 
for "the Goldwyn touch." Patiently, diligently, he 
reaches into and searches $3ooo-a-week brains and 
$5ooo-a-week brains in the hope of finding something 
worthy of Goldwyn. He is a Flaubert— with the excep- 
tion that the French genius tirelessly explored his own 
intellect for the perfect effect, while Goldwyn tirelessly 
explores the intellects that he has under contract. The 
results over a long period have justified Sam's methods. 
The percentage of ham in Goldwyn pictures is less than 
in those of any other producer. Not all of his pictures 

> 94 «- 



-«-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-> 

are masterpieces, but he commits few crimes against his 
own standards. 

Sam is a spellbinder by telephone. If television arrives 
in time to let him transmit his hypnotic eye and his li- 
brary of facial expressions, he will be greater than ever. 
As it is, even with the telephone in a rudimentary state, 
Sam can project a good deal of his personality over it. 
Writers have been shanghaied from New York to Hol- 
lywood by a few minutes of conversation with Gold- 
wyn. They say "No" at first. Sam talks. Finally, they go 
as if extradited. Sometimes they struggle against their 
fate, but Sam rarely fails to get them in the long run. 

Even with his business rivals and business enemies, 
Sam is a siren over the telephone. Executives in other 
companies wake up in a daze after a telephone conver- 
sation with Sam and dimly remember, to their dismay, 
that they have promised to lend him stars, directors or 
technical men. Sam once telephoned to David Selznick 
and asked to borrow George Cukor, one of the greatest 
of the directors. "Absolutely not," said Selznick, but he 
finally broke down and consented. Cukor, however, re- 
fused to work for Goldwyn. Then Sam telephoned to 
Selznick again; he wanted the reluctant Selznick to per- 
suade the reluctant Cukor to direct a picture for Gold- 
wyn. Cukor was firm. Sam finally had to confess defeat, 

> 95 + 



<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN *<-> 

and it was on this occasion that he said, "That's the way 
with these directors; they're always biting the hand that 
lays the golden egg." 

Another one of Sam's infrequent repulses over the 
telephone occurred in a conversation with Louis B. 
Mayer, head of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio. Sam 
wanted to borrow two of M-G-M's big stars, but he did 
not open the conversation by saying so. He opened it by 
saying that he had been grieving because he had not 
seen Mayer for a long time, and that he was getting 
worried for fear that Louis was overworking and in- 
juring his health. Mayer admitted that he was overwork- 
ing and not feeling any too well. Sam cross-examined 
him as to the symptoms and then gave him a fatherly 
scolding, illustrated with homely maxims: Life is short. 
We live but once. Great men are rare; they owe a duty 
to the world to look after their health. There is a limit 
to human endurance. Nobody can drive himself at a ter- 
rific pace forever. Sam prescribed home remedies, rest, a 
change of doctors. He spent nearly fifteen minutes on 
the lecture on hygiene before he started a transition to 
the subject of borrowing two stars. Sam brought it in 
like an afterthought, a little notion that had suddenly 
struck him. 

Mayer roared with indignation. A battle of epithets 



-<->- THE GREAT G O L D W Y N *f> 

followed. Sam had hardly finished dishing out health 
hints when he began to call down all sorts of afflictions 
and disasters on Mayer. 

Edgar Selwyn, one of Sam's oldest friends, is a pro- 
ducer at the M-G-M studio. Their telephone conversa- 
tion has a standard opening, as follows: 

"Edgar, where have you been keeping yourself? Why 
don't I ever see you? How've you — " 

"What do you want, Sam?" 

Sam protests a little, and then makes his request. 

Sam loses his power when he has to write. He can't 
make words coo and purr and explode on paper. The 
glittering eye, the gestures, the ecstasy and despair, the 
magical sense of timing, cannot be translated into black 
and white. The Ancient Mariner had the Goldwyn ap- 
proach; he would have lost his power if he had to send 
the Wedding Guest a memorandum. 

When Sam works on an important letter or state- 
ment, he is likely to call in everyone on the lot to ghost 
for him, but no genius can get Sam's furious feelings on 
paper. Some of his publicity and advertising campaigns 
have been considered masterpieces, but Sam is rarely 
satisfied. He did praise one Goldwyn statement. Sam 
imported a famous advertising writer from New York 
who spent several days writing an eloquent proclama- 

-> 97 «- 



■<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN •<-> 

tion of a new Goldwyn policy. Sam read it to his execu- 
tives and said, "There. That sounds like me." He was 
pleased once with an advertisement of his picture, We 
Live Again, which read: "The directorial genius of 
Mamoulian, the beauty of Sten and the producing gen- 
ius of Goldwyn have been combined to make the world's 
greatest entertainment." 

"That," said Sam, "is the kind of ad I like. Facts. No 
exaggeration." 

There is one instance on record of Sam's failing orally, 
and attempting to make his point by written words. He 
had just finished Arroivsmith and was trying to tell 
Helen Hayes how great it was. When his words and 
gestures failed to impress her, he said, "Come to my of- 
fice. I want you to read a letter I wrote about it." 

Sam had a long illness last year, but has regained his 
former vigorous health. During his sickness he planned 
to take life easier in the future; during his convalescence 
he outlined for himself the largest year's program that 
he had ever undertaken. He resolved also that he would 
be milder and gentler; that resolution stuck until he be- 
gan to feel great. 

Last year was Sam's twenty-third in the movie busi- 
ness; his press department at that time spotted him two 
years and celebrated the completion of his quarter cen- 

-> 98 <- 



-<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN ■<-> 

tury in the business. Next year is Sam's real silver jubi- 
lee. It is something for everybody to get patriotic about. 
The U. S. A. leads the world by a wider margin in pic- 
tures than anything else, and one of the chief reasons is 
the Great Goldwyn. 



■> 99 + 



1 1 1 1 1 i l i i 1 i i li i i i i